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Sheikh Extends Grass Sickness Research

Wednesday, 21st March 2007

Sheikh Mohammed "will provide extra funding for research into the cause of, and a cure for, grass sickness, the illness that claimed his Dubai World Cup winner Dubai Millennium during his first season at stud in Newmarket in 2001," reported thoroughbredinternet.com. Dr Ulrich Wernery at the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory in Dubai said "once the specific agent responsible for grass sickness was identified, the disease would be treatable" & noted the team assembled under the first US$1 million given by Sheikh Mohammed "was ready to renew its efforts after the Dubai ruler pledged more financial support". Wernery told Thorougbred Owner & Breeder magazine: "We have excluded many things. For example, many thought cyanide, which is a toxin in some sort of clover, could contribute to or even cause the disease. So we made feeding trials here in Dubai with cyanide & nothing happened. We have certainly excluded this. We can also exclude microtoxins, or toxins from fungus, and herbicides, and all these kinds of toxins from chemicals. We have also excluded, more or less, what many thought was the cause: clostridium botulinum. We infected several horses with different doses of clostridium botulinum: they got sick, but it was not grass sickness." The next phase of research will involve feeding grass obtained from British paddocks known to have been grazing sites of diseased animals to horses in scientific trials. Additionally, intestinal content obtained from horses who died of grass sickness will be fed to trial animals in an attempt to induce the disease. Wernery summed up: "My belief, after doing many different tests, is that it is a combination of different toxins." He said such toxins could come from bacteria in the soil, particularly spore-producing bacteria that survive winter in soil, since the disease always emerges in spring when grass starts growing.

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