Breath of fresh air: horses helping in asthma research at UArizona

Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 5:30 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - New research being done by the University of Arizona could help save thousands of horses and could lead to new discoveries and treatments for people with severe asthma.

On the East side of Tucson, the Al-Marah Equine Center at UArizona is home to nine new guests. Horses that have spent their lives in the southeastern United States. They brought here because their owners hoped to give them a new lease on life. They all suffer from severe equine asthma.

“Every one of these has been donated to us, and people have sought us out from states all in the southeast,” said Cyprianna Swiderski, director, Al-Marah Equine Center.

It’s climate and research that brings them to Old Pueblo, same with Swiderski. She recently moved from the southeast.

“I was shocked to see horses in the pasture that were having very severe asthma signs,” said Swiderski. “About five to eight percent of horses in the southeast are affected by this, and they get worse every year.”

Thousands of horses could be saved by watching these nine. Researchers have anecdotal stories and evidence that their asthma can get better in a climate like Arizona’s.

“What we wanted to do was bring them to a different environment where this disease really hasn’t been described,” said Swiderski.

If their symptoms do get better, this could be huge for people with specific severe asthma because horses are the only other animals that suffer from this severe asthma much like people do.

“There is a really big problem in southeast with severe asthma,” said Swiderski.

The horses have been in Tucson for about two weeks and are already showing signs of improvement. They’ll watch them for at least a year to see how they continue to improve

The university hopes they could eventually use these horses for equine therapy, if their condition improves enough.

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