Vets and horse owners across the UK are invited to help in a new research effort to find out more about Equine Grass Sickness (EGS). The disease remains stubbornly resistant to attempts to understand its cause.
Grass Sickness remains a major cause of mortality in horses and ponies in Britain with more than 80% of cases proving fatal. Some chronic cases do survive with specialised intensive nursing.
The Moredun Foundation and the Equine Grass Sickness Fund have embarked on an ambitious five-year plan to reveal the mysteries of this deadly disease.
They will continue to investigate the existing suspects, including mycotoxins and clostridium botulinum, but will also review all the research done to date, to see what might have been missed, or what new angles or techniques they might be able to uncover. For the first time several research projects will be ongoing simultaneously, bringing scientists, vets and horse owners together in an unprecedented collaboration to discover the cause.
As part of the plan, an EGS Fellowship Project will collect information on cases of grass sickness to form a national EGS Biobank. The new research Fellow will be based at the Moredun Research Institute and will spearhead the development of a new database and sample biobank to enable research to progress and encourage new thinking and inter-disciplinary collaborations.
Horse owners are being encouraged to take part in the project by becoming “EGS detectives” to raise awareness about the disease in their area, helping to report cases and submit samples for the research biobank.
Researchers want to collect samples from affected horses and from unaffected ones grazing the same pasture. They also aim to collect samples from the affected horses’ environment – including soil, herbage and water. Additional information about the horse and pasture will be collected through a questionnaire.
It is hoped that the information will help identify the underlying causes of the disease or the factors that trigger its onset.
Professor Lee Innes, Moredun Research Institute said, “We are delighted to be launching this new research initiative bringing together horse owners and researchers to progress our knowledge and understanding of this devastating disease. Moredun has a long and proud history of working in close collaboration with livestock farmers to help develop solutions to combat disease and we are keen to apply this model of collaboration to help tackle equine grass sickness”.
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