Foals born with rich microbial community in their gut – study

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Foals are born with diverse gut bacteria, researchers report.
Foals are born with diverse gut bacteria, researchers report.

Foals are born with a rich and diverse bacterial community in their intestine, Canadian researchers report.

A study team from the University of Guelph in Ontario set out to analyze the development of the microbial community, or microbiota, that inhabits the gut of foals.

Marcio Costa and his colleagues, writing in the Equine Veterinary Journal, said the intestinal microbiota was a complex ecosystem of microbes with important roles in the development and maintenance of health.

The availability of new gene sequencing technologies had sparked a revolution in the understanding of the equine intestinal microbiota. However, studies characterising the pioneer intestinal bacteria colonising foals and its development over time were limited, they noted.

In their study, they tested newborn foals until they were nine months old.

Eleven pregnant mares from one farm were enrolled in the study. Faecal samples were collected for analysis from the foals during their first day of life, as well as from their mothers on the same day. Samples were collected periodically until the youngsters reached nine months.

The study team found that the rich and diverse microbiota of newborns was mainly comprised of the Firmicute phylum, with several low abundant genera being unique at this age.

Foals aged from 2 and 30 days had significantly decreased diversity compared to older animals, with the majority of organisms classified as Akkermansia species. After 60 days of life, the intestinal microbiota structure tended to remain stable, but differences in community membership were still present between 9-month-old animals and adult mares.

Several differences at the phylum level were observed between different ages, including a higher abundance of Fibrobacteres after weaning.

“The intestinal microbiota of the equine newborn is already complex by the first day of life,” the researchers concluded.

Changes in the microbiota occurred during the first month of life, they reported, but the make-up in foals older than 60 days generally resembled that of adults, although differences could still be seen between 9-month-olds and adult mares.

Several differences at the phylum level were observed between different ages, including a higher abundance of Fibrobacteres after weaning.

Development of the faecal microbiota in foals
M.C. Costa, H.R. Stämpfli, E. Allen-Vercoe and J.S. Weese.
DOI: 10.1111/evj.12532
The abstract can be read here

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