Equine influenza virus remains a major health concern for the equine industry in spite of ongoing vaccination programmes. Previous work has shown that the immune system of horses can be affected by strenuous exercise. The possible adverse consequence of exercise-induced alterations in lymphocyte responses measured in vitro was unknown. Here we demonstrate that subjecting vaccinated ponies to a 5 day strenuous exercise programme results in a significant suppression of their T cell-mediated immune response to equine influenza virus as measured by decreased lymphoproliferation and gamma interferon production measured in vitro. These same ponies also demonstrated increased susceptibility to influenza disease following a challenge exposure to the same strain of virus. Rested ponies that had received the same vaccine and challenge were completely protected from disease. Our results demonstrate that exercise-induced suppression of the equine immune response to influenza virus can be associated with an increased susceptibility to disease.
- Equine influenza virus
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