The Moredun Foundation along with The Equine Grass Sickness Fund and the British Horse Society have created a nationwide biobank to gather samples relevant to grass sickness research. The biobank aims to build a library of samples from horses who have suffered or are suffering from Equine Grass Sickness (EGS) to makeavailable to researchers to help discover the causal factors of this often fatal equine disease.
To date, research into the cause of EGS has been hampered by the lack of samples available for clinical analysis, so the introduction of a biobank is a vital step towards gaining further understanding of this devastating disease.
The key to the success of the biobank is getting horse owners and vets to engage by submitting samples from affected horses and soil samples. However, as the window for collecting samples is relatively small, the biobank hopes to encourage horse owners to provide advance consent for samples to be taken in the unfortunate event their horse succumbs to the illness.
The biobank will also ask owners to complete case study questionnaires to help provide some background information to assist researchers with analysing their samples and ultimately try to protect futures generations of horses and their owners from the terrible effects of this disease.
What is EGS?
EGS is a frequently fatal disease affecting horses, ponies and donkeys which causes damage to the part of the nervous system which controls involuntary functions.
The organ most often affected is the gut, which becomes paralysed, compromising the equine’s ability to swallow or transport food. This can create fluid build-up in the stomach and small intestine, cause impactions in the large intestine and can also lead to dehydration.
The cause of EGS remains unknown, although the damage seen to the nervous system suggests a toxin may be involved. The disease is horrific and has an 80% fatality rate, so it is vital more research is done to prevent unnecessary suffering of equines.