Let the Germs Get the Worms Research Update

Martin K. Nielsen, DVM, PhD, DEVPC, DACVM, a parasitology specialist with the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center, earlier this year presented the first “crowdsourcing” funding campaign for equine parasitology research. Called “Let the Germs Get the Worms,” the research is focused on a bacteria that can naturally eliminate up to 97% of some types of worms.

“We have been busy here in the laboratory working on a number of different research projects,” said Nielsen. “One of these is our ‘Let the Germs get the Worms’ project. Thanks to all of you out there, we have raised over $9,000 for this project, and donations are still coming in. Some of that money has now been spent on generating the data presented in the graph. It may look a bit confusing, but it is really good news!

“We cultured strongyle parasite larvae in the lab and exposed them to different doses of the protein that our bacteria are secreting. Here at the university we have a population of parasites that has never been treated with any type of dewormer, and another one that is resistant to two out of three drug classes. We tested our bacterial protein against both of these parasite strains.

“The graph is a plot of the percent of surviving larvae (%L3i) against increasing concentrations of the bacterial protein (anthelmintics). The red triangles and blue squares represents effect of the bacterial protein against the drug-resistant parasites and never-treated parasites, respectively. It can be seen that the counts quickly drop to 0 with increasing concentration. The two black curves are the drug-resistant (triangles) and never-treated (squares) parasites treated with a commercially available dewormer, pyrantel. Here, it is clear that pyrantel reduces the never-treated parasites, whereas the drug-resistant parasites are indeed resistant to pyrantel.

“n other words, this graph illustrates that the crystal proteins being secreted by these bacteria are effective in killing both drug-naive and drug-resistant parasites. Obviously, we are very excited about these results.

“Our plan is now to include this data in a research grant application, which we will be submitting to the US Department of Agriculture later this month. If we get the funding, we will move on to the next phase of this project, which involves testing the bacteria and their protein product in horses.

“Once again, I want to thank you all for making this possible through your support. The website is still active, and you are most welcome to pay us a visit and drop a question. We will update you on the research as we move forward.”

You can learn more about Neilsen’s research and watch videos from him on the Let the Germs Get the Worms website.






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