A nationwide biobank to gather vital samples for research into the devastating disease Equine Grass Sickness (EGS), which has an 80% fatality rate in affected horses, has recently been launched by The Moredun Foundation and The Equine Grass Sickness Fund (EGSF), with support from The British Horse Society (BHS).
A lack of suitable samples from EGS cases has hindered research progress into the causal agents involved, despite the disease being recognised for over 100 years. But horse owners and vets can now play a crucial role in this project by submitting samples from affected horses and field controls, along with soil samples, to the new biobank.
In future, scientists researching EGS will be able to apply to use the anonymised samples in projects aiming to establish the causal agents and break new ground against the disease.
Dr Beth Wells, Principal Scientist and Knowledge Exchange Specialist at Moredun, said “We are delighted to be working in partnership with the EGSF, with generous funding from the BHS, to develop this national biobank of samples relating to EGS cases and controls. This is essential for research to progress and the samples will be available to all researchers. We are very grateful to all the horse owners and vets who have already provided samples, at such a difficult time for them and urge everyone to think about supporting us to help find the cause of this devastating disease.”
A suspected case of EGS is not only a highly distressing experience for horse owners, but there is also a very small window of opportunity to act. Therefore, the organisations are urging owners to be prepared in advance with the knowledge about how to submit samples and help prevent it from happening to other horses.
Although EGS cases can occur at any time of the year, it has been found to be most prevalent between April-June, so now is a critical time to collect the important samples.
By donating samples and completing case questionnaires, horse owners and vets can provide valuable information helping researchers understand the risk factors and protect future generations of horses and their owners from the terrible effects of this disease.
Details on how horse owners can report an EGS case and submit samples can be found here: https://www.grasssickness.org.uk/biobank/
The EGSF have also set up the “Grass Sickness Biobank” Facebook group, to help provide further information for horse owners: https://www.facebook.com/groups/egsbiobank