Severe combined immunodeficiency (non-human)

The severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) is a severe immunodeficiency genetic disorder that is characterized by the complete inability of the adaptive immune system to mount, coordinate, and sustain an appropriate immune response, usually due to absent or atypical T and B lymphocytes. In humans, SCID is colloquially known as "bubble boy" disease, as victims may require complete clinical isolation to prevent lethal infection from environmental microbes.

Several forms of SCID occur in animal species. Not all forms of SCID have the same cause; different genes and modes of inheritance have been implicated in different species.


Equine SCID is an autosomal recessive disorder that affects the Arabian horse. Similar to the "bubble boy" condition in humans, an affected foal is born with no immune system, and thus generally dies of an opportunistic infection, usually within the first four to six months of life. There is a DNA test that can detect healthy horses who are carriers of the gene causing SCID, thus testing and careful, planned matings can now eliminate the possibility of an affected foal ever being born.[1][2][3]

SCID is one of six genetic diseases known to affect horses of Arabian bloodlines, and the only one of the six for which there is a DNA test to determine if a given horse is a carrier of the allele.[4] There are other genetic diseases that affect other horse breeds,[5] and horses of part-Arabian bloodlines can be carriers of SCID.

Unlike SCID in humans, which can be treated, for horses, to date, the condition remains a fatal disease.[6] When a horse is heterozygous for the gene, it is a carrier, but perfectly healthy and has no symptoms at all. If two carriers are bred together, however, classic Mendelian genetics indicate that there is a 50% chance of any given mating producing a foal that is a carrier heterozygous for the gene, and a 25% risk of producing a foal affected by the disease. If a horse is found to carry the gene, the breeder can choose to geld a male or spay a female horse so that they cannot reproduce, or they can choose to breed the known carrier only to horses that have been tested and found to be "clear" of the gene. In either case, careful breeding practices can avoid ever producing an SCID-affected foal.


There are two known types of SCID in dogs, an X chromosome-linked form that is very similar to X-SCID in humans,[7] and an autosomal recessive form that is similar to the disease in Arabian horses and SCID mice.[8]

X-SCID in dogs is seen in Basset Hounds and Cardigan Welsh Corgis. Because it is an X-linked disease, females are carriers only and disease is seen in males exclusively. It is caused by a mutation in the gene for the cytokine receptor common gamma chain.[7] Recurring infections are seen and affected animals usually do not live beyond three to four months. Characteristics include a poorly developed thymus gland, decreased T-lymphocytes and IgG, absent IgA, and normal quantities of IgM.[9] A common cause of death is canine distemper, which develops following vaccination with a modified live distemper virus vaccine.[10] Due to its similarity to X-SCID in humans, breeding colonies of affected dogs have been created in order to study the disease and test treatments, particularly bone marrow transplantation and gene therapy.[11]

The autosomal recessive form of SCID has been identified in one line of Jack Russell Terriers. It is caused by a loss of DNA protein kinase, which leads to faulty V(D)J recombination. V(D)J recombination is necessary for recognition of a diverse range of antigens from bacteria, viruses, and parasites. It is characterized by nonfunctional T and B-lymphocytes and a complete lack of gammaglobulins.[10] Death is secondary to infection. Differences between this disease and the form found in Bassets and Corgis include a complete lack of IgM and the presence of the disease in females.


SCID mice are routinely used as model organisms for research into the basic biology of the immune system, cell transplantation strategies, and the effects of disease on mammalian systems. They have been extensively used as hosts for normal and malignant tissue transplants. In addition, they are useful for testing the safety of new vaccines or therapeutic agents in immunocompromised individuals.

The condition is due to a rare recessive mutation on Chromosome 16 responsible for deficient activity of an enzyme involved in DNA repair (Prkdc or "protein kinase, DNA activated, catalytic polypeptide"). Because V(D)J recombination does not occur, the humoral and cellular immune systems fail to mature. As a result, SCID mice have an impaired ability to make T or B lymphocytes, may not activate some components of the complement system, and cannot efficiently fight infections, nor reject tumors and transplants.

By crossing SCID mice with mice carrying mutations in related genes, such as interleukin-2Rgamma,[12] more efficient immunocompromised strains can be created to further aid research. The degree to which the various components of the immune system are compromised varies according to what other mutations the mice carry along with the SCID mutation.

See also


  1. "SCID in Arabian Horses"
  2. Parkinson, Mary Jane. "SCID: An Update." from Arabian Horse World, March, 1998
  3. "The New DNA Test for Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) in Arabian Horses"
  4. AHA Equine Stress, Research and Education Committee. "Caution:Knowledge." Modern Arabian Horse, August/September 2007, pp. 100-105. Online version at "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-12-25. Retrieved 2007-12-10.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. Other breeds known to have some individuals with genetic conditions include the American Quarter Horse, American Paint Horse, American Saddlebred, Appaloosa, Miniature horse, and Belgian.
  6., an organization promoting research into genetic lethal diseases in horse
  7. Henthorn PS, Somberg RL, Fimiani VM, Puck JM, Patterson DF, Felsburg PJ (1994). "IL-2R gamma gene microdeletion demonstrates that canine X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency is a homologue of the human disease". Genomics. 23 (1): 69–74. doi:10.1006/geno.1994.1460. PMID 7829104.
  8. Bell TG, Butler KL, Sill HB, Stickle JE, Ramos-Vara JA, Dark MJ (2002). "Autosomal recessive severe combined immunodeficiency of Jack Russell terriers". J. Vet. Diagn. Invest. 14 (3): 194–204. doi:10.1177/104063870201400302. PMID 12033674.
  9. Perryman LE (2004). "Molecular pathology of severe combined immunodeficiency in mice, horses, and dogs". Vet. Pathol. 41 (2): 95–100. doi:10.1354/vp.41-2-95. PMID 15017021.
  10. Ettinger, Stephen J.; Feldman, Edward C. (2005). Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine (6th ed.). W.B. Saunders Company. ISBN 1-4160-0110-7.
  11. Ting-De Ravin SS, Kennedy DR, Naumann N, et al. (2006). "Correction of canine X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency by in vivo retroviral gene therapy". Blood. 107 (8): 3091–7. doi:10.1182/blood-2005-10-4057. PMC 1895747. PMID 16384923.
  12. Ito M, Hiramatsu H, Kobayashi K, et al. (November 2002). "NOD/SCID/gamma(c)(null) mouse: an excellent recipient mouse model for engraftment of human cells". Blood. 100 (9): 3175–82. doi:10.1182/blood-2001-12-0207. PMID 12384415.
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