PHOTO: Stephen Patton
The deadline for contributing to the first research crowdfunding project at the University of Kentucky is March 10.
Martin Nielsen, an equine parasitologist, veterinarian and assistant professor at the UK Gluck Equine Research Center, launched the crowdfunding project titled, “Let the germs get the worms: Testing a novel probiotic compound for treatment of equine parasites,” in January. Nielsen’s crowdfunding project is possibly the first such effort in the field of veterinary science. He started with an ultimate goal of raising $30,000 with defined funding milestones along the way. The crowdfunding campaign is close to its first milestone of $5,000, with more than 50 individual donors from the United States, Canada, Australia and several European countries having contributed.
“We are highly grateful for the tremendous support we’ve received thus far. Reaching the first milestone will enable us to test our bacterial product against equine ascarid roundworms under laboratory conditions,” Nielsen said. “Ascarids are a major problem in foals, as they have become highly drug-resistant and are the cause of severe small intestinal impactions.”
Crowdfunding is a relatively new term that describes reaching out to the general public, usually through the Internet, to reach a fundraising goal. Success in reaching the goal often depends on many individuals making smaller donations through a website. The crowdfunding campaign is hosted at http://equineparasitology.ca.uky.edu/. Guests can sign up for more information, make online donations, access videos and educational information and ask Nielsen exclusive questions about parasite control. Featured videos on the site have been viewed more than 1,500 times since it launched.
The next funding milestone is $10,000. Nielsen said by reaching that goal, it will enable his laboratory to test small strongyles, the most prevalent of all horse parasites.
“As these infect horses of all ages across the world, it would be of great value to do this research,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen’s research team is devoted to providing solutions for worm control in horses. Horse parasites, such as small strongyles and large roundworms, are developing increased levels of resistance to all available dewormers. No new drugs are being developed for use in horses, so the equine industry needs new reliable treatment alternatives. Horses on pasture are constantly exposed to different parasites. These can cause disease symptoms such as colic, diarrhea and weight loss. Foals are particularly vulnerable to parasite infection and need special attention in parasite control programs.
“It is our experience that horse owners are very interested in updated information about parasite control and have great concerns about drug resistance,” Nielsen said. “We therefore felt that crowdfunding would be very appropriate for raising funding for research in this area. The crowdfunding platform allows direct interaction with the end users of our research, which is very valuable to us. A good question can inspire us to set up the next research project.”
The mission of the Gluck Center, a UK Ag Equine program in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, is scientific discovery, education and dissemination of knowledge for the benefit of the health and well-being of horses. The Gluck Center faculty conducts equine research in six targeted areas: genetics and genomics, infectious diseases and immunology, musculoskeletal science, parasitology, pharmacology/toxicology and reproductive health.
For more information on the Gluck Center, visit http://www.ca.uky.edu/gluck.
Martin Nielsen, 859-218-1103; Jenny Evans, 859-218-1089