The worm turns: Crowdfunding sought for equine parasite research

Equine parasitologist Martin Nielsen hopes horse owners will back an innovative bid to raise cash for worm research.
Equine parasitologist Martin Nielsen hopes horse owners will back an innovative bid to raise cash for worm research.

Crowdfunding, the online strategy for raising cash for anything from company startups to political campaigns, is coming to equine research.

Martin Nielsen, an equine parasitologist, veterinarian and assistant professor at the University of Kentucky’s Gluck Equine Research Center, has launched what is possibly the first research crowdfunding project in the field of veterinary science.

Crowdfunding describes reaching out to the general public, usually online, to reach a fundraising goal.

Success in reaching the goal often depends on many individuals making smaller donations through a website.

Nielsen’s crowdfunding campaign, called “Let the germs get the worms: Testing a novel probiotic compound for treatment of equine parasites”,  has a goal of raising $US30,000 before March 10.

Nielsen’s research team is devoted to providing solutions for worm control in horses.

Horse parasites, such as small strongyles and large roundworm, 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 parasite types. 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 says.

“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.”

Researchers at the University of California have identified a naturally occurring bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, which produces a crystal protein capable of killing intestinal worms without harming the animal.

Martin Nielsen
Martin Nielsen ©: Jan B. Jensen

The University of Kentucky’s study aims to evaluate the effect of this bacterial protein against important horse parasites under laboratory conditions.

Parasites will be collected from horses in a research herd and tested in the laboratory.

“We will test for the presence of receptors for the bacterial protein, and test the effect against different horse parasites under laboratory conditions,” Nielsen explains.

“We expect to use the results to apply for a larger grant to finally allow us to test the probiotic in horses.”

Nancy Cox, who is dean of the university’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment and Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station director, said she was proud of the innovative approach to fundraising, which gave donors a chance to participate in the research program and research findings.

“We are pleased that Dr Nielsen’s crowdfunding project is the very first one to be implemented at the University of Kentucky.”

Guests can sign up for more information on the project and make online donations at, where they can also access videos and educational information.

As a special feature, the site is set up with an exclusive questions forum where visitors can ask Nielsen about parasite control.

Reporting: Jenny Evans


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