Researchers at the University of Surrey’s School of Veterinary Medicine, in collaboration with colleagues from Reading and Liverpool universities, have been awarded about $157,000 in funding to create a laboratory model of the horse’s hindgut. The funding was presented by Petplan Charitable Trust, one of United Kingdom’s largest animal welfare charities.
In spite of their huge importance to health and performance, very little is known about the horse’s gut bacteria and how this vital microbial community varies in health and disease, according to the university. Disturbances in gut bacterial populations are known to affect not just digestion but immunity, risk of cancer, bodyweight and even behavior, the university further noted.
The model sets out to discover new ways of preventing disease and maintaining health through dietary intervention.
The research team will employ nuclear magnetic resonance technology at the University of Reading to evaluate changes in the bacterial metabolites, and next-generation gene sequencing at the University of Liverpool to characterize bacterial populations.
The project is expected to take two years
“Bringing the horse’s gut into the laboratory will allow us to characterize gut bacterial populations and to measure how these change in response to changes in diet and to medication such as antibiotics,” said Professor Chris Proudman, Ph.D., head of University of Surrey’s School of Veterinary Medicine, and lead researcher. “Intestinal disease (colic) is the single biggest cause of death in horses; this work will allow us to identify novel ways of maintaining a healthy gut through dietary intervention.”