Phospholipids in equine summer eczema and its therapy

Raija Hallamaa

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


Summer eczema is one of the most common diseases that causes discomfort and impairs the quality of life of horses worldwide. The lack of a feasible treatment has made this recurrent, insect hypersensitivity-linked allergic pruritus a challenge for veterinary medicine. The first aim of this study was to examine serum phospholipids and their use in the therapy of summer eczema by using an autologous serum preparation. The second aim was to delineate clinical features of summer eczema among Finnhorses. The efficacy of the therapy was investigated in 28 horses in a placebo-controlled study and was also evaluated according to long-term information collected from the owners of the 343 horses treated with this therapy over 12 years. Serum phospholipids and their changes after autoserum therapy were analysed in 10 horses with summer eczema and 10 matched healthy controls by LC-MS. Content of phospholipids in autoserum preparations of 10 affected and 6 healthy horses were analysed by ESI-MS. Horses in the placebo group showed significant aggravation in their clinical signs compared with horses treated with autoserum therapy at the same time (P=0.0329). According to long-term data, 70% of the horses benefited from this autoserum therapy (95% CI 0.64-0.75, P<0.0001) and 16% did not, and 14% of the owners did not provide a clear opinion. No harmful side effects were observed. Horses with summer eczema displayed significantly lower concentrations of phosphatidylcholine (P<0.0001) and sphingomyelin (P=0.0115) in their sera than healthy horses. After a 4-week autoserum therapy, no significant difference between these horses could be demonstrated. The change in clinical signs correlated significantly with the alterations in sphingomyelin concentrations (P=0.0047). Analysis of autoserum preparations revealed that these preparations contained major serum phospholipids, however, in significantly differing concentrations between eczema and healthy horses. Affected horses showed more abundant concentrations of phosphatidylcholine (P=0.042) and sphingomyelin (P=0.0017). In addition, concentrations of these phospholipids correlated significantly with the clinical status. Finnhorses formed the largest group. Most Finnhorses had become affected before the age of 5 years and showed moderate signs. Severity of the signs was not related to age at onset. No significant correlation existed between duration and severity of the disease. This study showed that an autoserum preparation containing serum phospholipids was a favourable method to treat summer eczema. Affected horses displayed significant differentiations in their serum phospholipid profiles and these alterations seemed to change according to the clinical status. Applications of this autoserum therapy for other allergic manifestations of horses should be explored.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Helsinki
  • Vainio, Outi, Supervisor
  • Raekallio, Marja, Supervisor
Award date29 Sep 2017
Place of PublicationHelsinki
Print ISBNs978-951-51-3651-0
Electronic ISBNs978-951-51-3652-7
Publication statusPublished - 29 Sep 2017
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

Fields of Science

  • 413 Veterinary science

Cite this

Hallamaa, R. (2017). Phospholipids in equine summer eczema and its therapy. Helsinki: University of Helsinki.