North American researchers have found a decrease in microbial diversity in the dung of horses suffering from Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS).
Early diagnosis of the syndrome is an important area of study, given it can be one of the first signs of laminitis.
Catching EMS in its initial stages can allow early intervention with an appropriate exercise and diet plan to reduce the chances of laminitis developing.
In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers at the University of Kentucky’s Gluck Equine Research Center and the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, have been collaborating to find out if there are changes in the intestinal microbiota of horses afflicted with EMS.
It is known that humans with metabolic disorders have these changes so the researchers set out to compare 10 horses with EMS to 10 horses in a control group by analyzing fecal microbiota with next-generation sequencing of DNA.
“The study revealed a decrease in the fecal microbial diversity for the EMS horses as well as differences in the overall community structure when compared to the metabolically normal control group of horses,” Ontario Veterinary College researcher Dr Scott Weese said.
Both groups of horses were of comparable age and had received a similar all-forage diet for at least two months before sampling.
Links have been made between obesity and lower microbial diversity in human, dog and horse studies, but there is still much to learn about optimal values for diversity.
With more research toward understanding the changes in microbiota and what affects these changes, it is possible this technology will be used in the future to help manage syndromes such as EMS.
Weese has also been involved in research which showed bacterial changes in horse manure preceded colic.