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Opportunity to study for a fully funded equine dermatology PhD at the University of Bristol

Project title

A pilot study of oral immunotherapy as a treatment to desensitize horses with insect bite hypersensitivity to Culicoides spp

Project outline

Equine Insect Bite Hypersensitivity (IBH) is a Type I IgE-mediated allergy of horses to salivary proteins of Culicoides spp. (midges).  IBH occurs throughout the world; it affects an estimated 3% of horses in the UK with up to 60% of horses developing this allergy in high risk populations, making it one of the commonest skin diseases of horses.  IBH has a well described immuno-pathogenesis in which exposure of allergic horses to Culicoides antigens elicits an acute phase inflammatory response with local vasodilation, oedema and intense itching, causing distress to the horses and rubbing associated skin damage.  The acute allergic reaction goes into remission during the winter months, but disease signs usually recur during subsequent periods of high insect activity.  Persistent exposure to insect bites over several annual cycles leads to a chronic inflammatory response characterized by dermal fibrosis, epidermal hyperplasia and hyperkeratosis.  Although this is not a life-threatening condition, the distress caused by unrelieved itching and the chronic nature of the disease result in a severe impact on the horse’s wellbeing and quality of life.  The chronic debilitating nature of IBH, together with the current lack of effective therapies, makes this condition a major contributor to suffering and disease burden in affected horses.  Our proposal presents the opportunity to build on over a decade of research into the fundamental causes of IBH and to take the initial steps towards developing an effective therapy which would directly benefit the welfare of affected horses.

Research projects carried out at the University of Bristol has identified many of the identification of the abundant Culicoides salivary proteins which comprise the major allergens.  We have synthesized a library of over twenty recombinant proteins expressed in E-coli representing all of the known allergen groups and several novel proteins not yet fully characterized

The current project (funded by the Horse Trust) will use these recombinant proteins to measure the immune reactions of allergic horses and to conduct a preliminary double-blind placebo controlled trial of sublingual immunotherapy.  Having first defined the allergens to which each horse reacts, we will then administer a course of sublingual immunotherapy using these allergens and evaluate the effect of immunotherapy treatment on clinical signs and key parameters of the allergic immune response.

Requirements: A degree in veterinary medicine and experience working with horses.

Anyone who is interested in pursuing this opportunity should contact Dr Doug Wilson by e-mail in the first instance.


Department of Medicine and Epidemiology School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis

Assistant/Associate/Full Professor of Dermatology 
To read the advert, please download the PDF file.

To receive fullest consideration, applications must be received by March 1, 2018 

Click here to download the PDF