Equine inflammatory airway disease (IAD) and recurrent airway obstruction (RAO) represent a spectrum of chronic inflammatory disease of the airways in horses resembling human asthma in many aspects. Therefore, both are now described as severity grades of equine asthma. Increasing evidence in horses and humans suggests that local pulmonary inflammation is influenced by systemic inflammatory processes and the other way around. Inflammation, coagulation, and fibrinolysis as well as extracellular remodeling show close interactions. Cytology of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid and tracheal wash is commonly used to evaluate the severity of local inflammation in the lung. Other mediators of inflammation, like interleukins involved in the chemotaxis of neutrophils, have been studied. Chronic obstructive pneumopathies lead to remodeling of bronchial walls and lung parenchyma, ultimately causing fibrosis. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are discussed as the most important proteolytic enzymes during remodeling in human medicine and increasing evidence exists for the horse as well. A systemic involvement has been shown for severe equine asthma by increased acute phase proteins like serum amyloid A and haptoglobin in peripheral blood during exacerbation. Studies focusing on these and further possible inflammatory markers for chronic respiratory disease in the horse are discussed in this review of the literature.
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