British EBF Veterinary Research Funding Update

Wed 28 Jun 2017

Part of the remit of the British EBF (European Breeders’ Fund) is:

  • to promote and support organisations whose purposes include assisting and improving the breeding of thoroughbred horses
  • to provide financial support for equine research beneficial to the thoroughbred horse

To that end, we are currently part funding a project in to parasite resistance research at the University of Cambridge in conjunction with the HBLB (Levvy board) and the TBA (Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association).

Dr Laura Peachey is a veterinary surgeon with a keen interest in parasitology research. She qualified in veterinary science from the University of Liverpool in 2007, having intercalated with a BSc in veterinary pathology at the Royal Veterinary College in 2005.

Commenting on her funded research and progress to date, Dr Peachey said:

“Resistance of parasites to worming drugs is a grave threat to the Thoroughbred breeding industry. If the available drugs become ineffective, worm infections in young-stock and broodmares will result in significantly reduced growth rates and could cause life threatening outbreaks of disease.

In the Veterinary Parasitology group at the University of Cambridge, we are interested in the development of novel parasite control strategies, which can potentially be used alongside conventional wormers to reduce our reliance on these drugs, and hence slow the spread of drug resistance. My fellowship project focuses on the factors responsible for defining ‘natural’ resistance to worm infections, and on how we might harness these to improve parasite control. In particular, there is increasing evidence that gut bacteria play an important role in immune responses to infection in the horse gut, and hence my research aims to identify bacteria which are associated with an effective response to parasite infection.

The project, thus far, has revealed that there are distinct differences in the gut bacteria in Thoroughbred broodmares with low versus high worm burdens, which may be linked to improved immunity to infection. I am currently in the process of collecting data from young-stock and from post-mortem cases in order to validate these findings. Ultimately, I hope to design evidence based pro- and pre-biotic supplements which utilise the diet to improve horses’ response to worms, thus reducing the frequency of treatment and proportion of horses requiring treatment in the stud farm environment.”

Dr Peachey’s research project will continue until spring 2019.