May 11, 2001 | By: Mark Eclov
LEXINGTON, KY.

When a cause and possible treatment for the mysterious problem afflicting Kentucky's mares and foals population is found, it will be the culmination of an extensive team effort.

Dr. David Powell, an Equine Epidemiologist at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Gluck Equine Center, is coordinating the various groups of scientists, veterinarians and lab personnel who are working long hours to obtain the data that can lead to the source of the problem now officially known as mare reproductive loss syndrome.

"The ultimate goal of our efforts is to find how this problem came about and what is the cause," noted Powell.

One team of researchers is looking through the literature and identifying the appropriate national and international experts and laboratories that can help in pinpointing the problem. Dr. Thomas Tobin, a Toxicology and Pharmacology researcher at the UK Gluck Equine Center is coordinating this effort.

This research effort also comes with a price tag. Dr. Peter Timoney, director of the Gluck Equine center, will be coordinating funding efforts within the University of Kentucky and the equine industry to insure there is financial support to undertake these studies.

Two other groups have the daunting task of collecting samples from affected animals and the many different sources of feeds and forages used by the affected horse farms.

Roger Allman, pasture consultant with The Farm Clinic leads a team that is in charge of collecting pasture samples from both affected and non-affected farms. "These samples have already been sent away (for analysis), but large numbers of other samples have been stored away for future studies," noted Powell.

Tissue and blood samples must also be taken from a large number of mares and foals and Len Harrison, director of the University of Kentucky diagnostic laboratory is coordinating this extensive task.

"Dr. Harrison is also laying down additional material and will determine whether or not we need to bring in extra pathological expertise, particularly in the area of looking at the placenta, the pathology of which we think may well be intimately involved in this particular syndrome. " said Powell.

A team of researchers headed by Dr. Roberta Dwyer, a veterinary medicine researcher with the Gluck Equine Center, is conducting a sequence of epidemiological studies (research that looks into temporarily widespread health problems).

"Dr. Dwyer's group will be pulling in additional experts in this area to set up surveys to identify the risk factors that are involved in this syndrome," said Powell. "It may well involve visitations to farms to fill out questionnaires so it may well involve a very labor intensive exercise.

Communication is the final team effort and Powell emphasized that the Equine center's web site includes the latest information on the situation which can be accessed through the University of Kentucky College of Ag web site at http://www.ca.uky.edu. Additional stories on the issue are also available by clicking "News and Events" at the UK College of Ag web site.