MRLS Research Funding Exceeds $2 million; More Needed

Funding figures from University of Kentucky and non-university sources for research on mare reproductive loss syndrome (MRLS) were recently made available. The problem is estimated to have cost the horse industry in Kentucky nearly $500 million in 2001 and 2002.

The KTA/KTOB and Ag Development Board funded $694,615; the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation funded $295,938; the University of Kentucky funded $80,000 for analysis, tests, etc.; USDA Agriculture Research Service funded $423,000 in 2002 and $410,000 in 2003. Total from all sources: $1,903,553.

"I think people should know that the University of Kentucky and all of its departments have done a remarkable job in locating the source of the MRLS problem (caterpillars), identified the lesions involved (amnion and placenta), and are now very close to finding the mechanism of action of how it all takes place," said Dr. Richard Holder, DVM, a private practitioner with Hagyard-Davidson-McGee veterinary firm and president of the Kentucky Association of Equine Practitioners.

"We have several ongoing trials and have several more planned depending on the outcome of the present trials," he said. "However, it is tremendously expensive to buy and maintain the number of horses we need to make the trials significant. We are out of funding. The researchers are having to put trials on hold until funding can be found. The researchers now working together are very close to solving the problem. If we cannot get them money to continue, they will be forced to split up and move to other projects that the government will fund. It will be very difficult to get the same individuals all back together again.

"We desperately need money so that the trials can continue with the group that is now in place," he said. "Anyone interested in contributing should contact Dr. Nancy Cox at the College of Agriculture. (859-2307759) The donations should be specified for MRLS research. We are extremely close to solving the MRLS problem.

According to Cox, associate dean of research for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, federal funds won't be as plentiful for equine research now as they were the past two years. "We responded to the MRLS crisis with the Agricultural Research funds, but we also have a responsibility to other grazing animals, and we've got to have more balanced spending," she said.

She added that the University of Kentucky has put $2 of its own resources--people, laboratory equipment, animals, etc.--to every $1 of federal money spent.