04/30/2002 11:00PM

New fetal loss study links caterpillars

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Early results from an ongoing experiment at the University of Kentucky have linked early equine fetal loss to caterpillars and their excrement, researchers reported Wednesday.

In clinical trials in Lexington, researchers announced that six of nine pregnant mares involved in the study lost their fetuses after exposure to caterpillar frass, or excrement, alone. Six of 10 pregnant mares aborted after exposure to large numbers of caterpillars and frass.

Three of 10 mares in a control group with reduced exposure to caterpillars and/or frass also lost their pregnancies.

"These are not complete results, and they are not statistically significant from a scientific perspective," Dr. Bruce Webb, a UK entomologist, said, "but they are significant from the perspective of the needs of the horse community, and we felt we should put the word out."