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A natural alternative to current therapies for the treatment of gastric ulcers in horses is a step closer, after a scientist showed that giving horses a polysaccharide blend for a month can reduce the problem.
Gastric ulcers are common in horses, with their prevalence depending upon breed, the use of the animals and their level of training. Veterinarians will often prescribe a drug known as a proton pump inhibitor to treat the ailment.
Now, a researcher at the McGee Medical Center, part of the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, has shown that treatment with a polysaccharide blend reduces gastric ulceration in active horses.
Polysaccharides are carbohydrates comprising long chains of simpler monosaccharide units.
Dr Nathan Slovis, in a peer-reviewed study published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, described how 10 horses underwent gastroscopy for diagnosis and scoring of existing ulcers.
For the study, each horse was given a daily dose of 1 to 2 ounces of a polysaccharide blend comprising a blend of high-molecular-weight hyaluronan and schizophyllan, which is a beta-glucan.
It was found that the formulation, given for 30 days, resulted in ulcerative healing.
Of the horses treated with the blended therapy, 90% showed complete resolution and/or improvement in ulcerative areas, increased appetite, weight gain, and positive behavioral changes.
The study suggested that a polysaccharide blend represented a novel means to enhance gastric healing in active horses, he said. The study’s long-term results could provide horse owners and veterinarians an all-natural alternative to current therapies.
“Ulcers can be found in as many as 80-100% of horses,” Slovis explains.
“Our objective in this research was to determine whether a natural treatment would help in the healing process.
“From the data gathered, we were able to determine that horses can be successfully treated with a naturally safe and effective polysaccharide blend of hyaluronan and schizophyllan.”
Hyaluronan is what is known as a glycosaminoglycan and is common throughout the body. It has multiple roles in the gastrointestinal tract, being vital in the intestine for fluid exchange to and from the blood. It also plays a role in the intestinal innate immune response and helps protect the intestinal lining.
Schizophyllan is a neutral polysaccharide found in the cell wall of a common fungus, Schizophyllan communeda. Beta-glucans, including schizophyllan, are scientifically proven biological defense modulators that have the ability to nutritionally boost the immune response.
Research supports the safety of beta-glucan polysaccharides for use in horses.
Slovis said his study provided sound evidence that a polysaccharide blend enhanced gastric healing in the active horse.
He said the findings were clinically significant as more horse owners and veterinarians sought alternative treatment options for equine gastric ulcer syndrome based upon failures and side effects of current approved therapies.
While the way in which polysaccharides worked in reducing ulcers had yet to be fully explained, plausible options included a mucosal protective coating, antisecretory activity in respect of gastric acid and pepsin, and radical scavenging activity.
Hyaluronan, along with other polysaccharides, was an established antioxidant which is thought to create a mechanical barrier, limiting access to reactive oxygen species and thereby reducing the DNA damage response activation.
“It is also speculated that the gastroprotective effects of hyaluronan could be attributed to its anti-inflammatory activity.”
He said the polysaccharide blend provided a safe, nonpharmaceutical alternative to the use of proton pump inhibitors – the family of drugs that include omeprazole.
“The presence and severity of ulcers change over time with or without intervention. However, this study is unique in that participants were active adult horses that remained in daily training, and stress and/or activity levels were not altered.”
The daily dose comprised 240 to 480mg of high-molecular-weight hyaluronan and 60 to 120mg of schizophyllan.
Slovis said additional investigations were warranted to further clarify the findings and determine optimal protocols.
Polysaccharide Treatment Reduces Gastric Ulceration in Active Horses
The study can be read here.