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Sarah Mansell at the Equine Student Conference

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15 July 2020

Two of our final year students have been selected to present their Honours Research Project (HRP) dissertations today at the Equine Student Conference. Sarah Mansell and Erica Brown’s pieces will be presented virtually alongside others offering insightful discussion into the equine field. Here, Sarah shares an overview of her HRP and her Harper journey.

The BSc (Hons) Bioveterinary Science student’s piece is entitled Assessing the awareness of Onchocerca cervicalis amongst equine veterinary surgeons in the UK. Sarah explained her research in detail, saying: “Onchocerca cervicalis is commonly referred to as neck threadworm, it's a parasite which is transmitted by midges and affects horses around the world. However it hasn't been studied in depth in the UK since the 1970's.

“My supervisor, Dr. Malgorzata Behnke, brought this topic to my attention. After doing a bit of research I found it fascinating how little Onchocerca cervicalis had been studied in the UK and thought it was really important to raise awareness of the parasite within the veterinary profession. The findings were really interesting and I really enjoyed the research process!”

Sarah explained about her research further: “The larvae of the parasite can produce symptoms similar to a number of common horse skin conditions, including sweet itch. These symptoms are controlled by routine worming measures, however as the industry moves away from routine worming due to concerns over parasites developing resistance to drugs, it could be that we see Onchocerca cervicalis starting to re-emerge.

“Because of the lack of recent research, it was unknown to what extent UK based equine vets were aware of the parasite, how much they knew about it, and whether they considered it as a differential diagnosis for other horse skin conditions.”

Sarah’s research was wide, using the digital tools at her disposal. She commented: “We used an online questionnaire to investigate and found that the majority of equine vet respondents were aware of Onchocerca cervicalis. However knowledge of the parasites life cycle was generally low and the majority of respondents did not consider it as a differential diagnosis in cases of other skin conditions which were unresponsive to standard treatment and management techniques.”

Now Sarah will be presenting her research and sharing her passion for research. She said: “I thought the Equine Student Conference provided a great opportunity for me to share my results; I submitted an abstract to the conference for consideration and I was delighted when this was accepted for one of the poster presentation sessions.

“I'm really looking forward to sharing my research as I have become really passionate about the topic. I'm also looking forward to hearing about what other students have been doing!”

Looking to the future, Sarah shared: “I really enjoy the research process and hope to pursue a research based career in the future. I'm moving on to postgraduate study which should help me to achieve this.”

You can join the Equine Student Conference this afternoon at 16:30. To register for the event, click here.

To see Erica’s research being taken to the Equine Student Conference, click here.

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