Horses With Pasture Asthma Have Airway Remodeling That Is Characteristic of Human Asthma

Claudenir R. Ferrari, Jim Cooley, Nisma Mujahid, Lais R. Costa, Robert W. Wills, Melanie E. Johnson, Cyprianna E. Swiderski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Severe equine asthma, formerly recurrent airway obstruction (RAO), is the horse counterpart of human asthma, affecting horses maintained indoors in continental climates. Equine pasture asthma, formerly summer pasture RAO, is clinically similar but affects grazing horses during hot, humid conditions in the southeastern United States and United Kingdom. To advance translational relevance of equine pasture asthma to human asthma, histologic features of airway remodeling in human asthma were scored in lung lobes from 15 pasture asthma-affected and 9 control horses of mixed breeds. All noncartilaginous airways were scored using a standardized grading rubric (0–3) in hematoxylin and eosin (HE) and Movat’s pentachrome-stained sections; 15 airways were chosen randomly from each lobe for analysis. Logistic regression identified disease, age, and lobe effects on probability of histologic outcomes. Airway smooth muscle (odds ratio [OR] = 2.5, P <.001), goblet cell hyperplasia/metaplasia (OR = 37.6, P <.0001), peribronchiolar elastic system fibers (OR = 4.2, P <.001), peribronchiolar fibrosis (OR = 3.8, P =.01), airway occlusion by mucus/inflammation (OR = 4.2, P =.04), and airway adventitial inflammation (OR = 3.0, P =.01) were significantly greater in diseased airways. A novel complex tissue disorganization, designated terminal bronchiolar remodeling, was overrepresented in diseased airways (OR = 3.7, P <.0001). Distribution of terminal bronchiolar remodeling corresponded to putative sites of air trapping in human asthma, at secondary pulmonary lobules. Age (>15 years) was an independent risk factor for increased peribronchiolar fibrosis, elastic system fibers, and terminal bronchiolar remodeling. Remodeling differed significantly between lung lobes, congruent with nonhomogeneous remodeling in human asthma. Equine pasture asthma recapitulates airway remodeling in human asthma in a manner not achieved in induced animal asthma models, endorsing its translational relevance for human asthma investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)144-158
Number of pages15
JournalVeterinary pathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • airway remodeling
  • animal
  • disease models
  • equine asthma
  • heaves
  • horses
  • lungs
  • summer pasture-associated recurrent airway obstruction (SPARAO)
  • terminal bronchiolar remodeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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