Effect of nutritional antioxidant supplementation on systemic and pulmonary antioxidant status, airway inflammation and lung function in heaves-affected horses


Laboratory for Functional Investigation, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Liège, B-4000 Liège, Belgium


An oxidant/antioxidant imbalance in favour of oxidants has been identified as playing a decisive role in the pathogenesis of chronic inflammatory airway diseases. Nutritional antioxidant supplementation might reduce oxidative damage by enhancement of the antioxidant defence, thereby modulating inflammatory processes. In a placebo-controlled, blind study, it was tested whether a dietary antioxidant supplement administered for 4 weeks would improve lung function and reduce airway inflammation in heaves-affected horses. Eight horses in clinical remission of heaves were investigated at rest and after a standardised exercise test before and after treatment with an antioxidant supplement (consisting of a mixture of natural antioxidants including vitamins E and C and selenium from a variety of sources) or placebo (oatfeed pellets without additive). Pulmonary function and exercise tolerance were monitored; systemic and pulmonary lining fluid uric acid, glutathione and 8-epi-PGF were analysed, and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) cytology and inflammatory scoring of the airways were performed. The antioxidant treatment significantly improved exercise tolerance and significantly reduced endoscopic inflammatory score. Plasma uric acid concentrations were significantly reduced, suggesting down regulation of the xanthine-dehydrogenase and xanthine-oxydase pathway. Haemolysate glutathione showed a nonsignificant trend to increase, while plasma 8-epi-PGF remained unchanged. Pulmonary markers and BAL cytology were not significantly affected by antioxidant supplementation. The present study suggests that the antioxidant supplement tested modulated oxidant/antioxidant balance and airway inflammation of heaves-affected horses.