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Editorial
What are the bacteria in the lower airways of athletic horses telling us?
  1. Kristopher Hughes, BVSc, FANZCVSc, DIpECEIM
  1. School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Charles Sturt University, Locked Bag 588, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, 2678, Australia
  1. e-mail: krhughes{at}csu.edu.au

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Lower airway inflammation (LAI) is a common condition in racehorses (Wood and others 2005a, Allen and others 2006, Couetil and others 2007) and is associated with reductions in performance and alterations in pulmonary function (Couetil and Denicola 1999, Sanchez and others 2005). In resting horses, disease can either be subclinical (Richard and others 2010a) or result in mild clinical signs, such as coughing and nasal discharge (Couetil and others 2007).

Varying definitions for LAI in horses have been proposed to account for differences in region of the lower airways involved, aetiology and avenues for diagnosis. Inflammatory airway disease (IAD) has been defined as non-septic inflammation detected by cytological examination of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid or pulmonary dysfunction (Couetil and others 2007), while tracheal inflammation with or without association with an infectious agent has been termed ‘syndrome of tracheal inflammation’ (Richard and others 2010a) or ‘tracheal IAD (trIAD)’ (Cardwell and others 2011a, b). By attempting to distinguish between different forms of LAI in terms of location in the lower airways, better understanding of the aetiopathogenesis of the disease in athletic horses may be achievable. In particular, improved knowledge surrounding putative infectious and non-infectious (eg, environmental or genetic) components of LAI would be of benefit for improved understanding of the epidemiology, diagnostic targets and treatment and management strategies.

In a paper summarised on p 637 in this issue of Veterinary Record, …

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