Bacterial changes in horse manure precede colic – study

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Differences in the abundance of certain bacteria in horse manure before bouts of colic could lead to measures to predict and prevent the dangerous gut condition, North American researchers report.

The scientists launched their study to determine whether disruptions in the gastrointestinal microbiota may trigger development of colic in mares following birth.

They collected manure samples from mares on three farms in central Kentucky. They were taken when the pregnant mares were late-term and following birth, as well as from control mares that were not pregnant.

In all, 85 samples were subject to genetic analysis to provide data on the makeup of the microbiome of the mares. The samples were from 13 mares that developed colic, 13 that did not display colic, and five non-pregnant controls.

Professor Scott Weese, from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, and his colleagues identified 25 phyla, although only Firmicutes, Verrucomicrobia, Actinobacteria and Proteobacteria were present at a relative abundance of 1% or greater.

The faecal microbiota of late-term mares differed from nonpregnant mares, they reported in the Equine Veterinary Journal, with differences  found in microbial community membership and structure but not the relative abundance of major phyla.

Foaling and the period that followed had limited impact on the faecal microbiome, they reported.

However, faecal samples obtained from mares before episodes of colic had a significantly higher relative abundance of Proteobacteria (8.2%) compared with samples from mares that did not display colic (3.7%).

All samples with a relative abundance of Firmicutes of 50% or less preceded colic, as did 6 out of 7 samples with more than 4% Proteobacteria.

“Foaling had minimal effects on the mares’ faecal microbiota,” the study team concluded.

But they continued: “Numerous differences in the faecal microbiota preceded colic. Associations between Firmicutes (particularly Lachnospiraceae and Ruminococcaceae) and Proteobacteria and development of colic could lead to measures to predict and prevent colic,” they said.

Weese was joined in the study by researchers from Michigan State University, and Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, in Lexington, Kentucky.

Weese, J.S., Holcombe, S.J., Embertson, R.M., Kurtz, K.A., Roessner, H.A., Jalali, M. and Wismer, S. E. (2015), Changes in the faecal microbiota of mares precede the development of post partum colic. Equine Veterinary Journal, 47: 641–649. doi: 10.1111/evj.12361
The abstract can be read here

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