Research: Microbiota of Surviving and Non-surviving Horses with Acute Diarrhea

Dog in green pasture next to a pile of healthy horse manure.
Dog in green pasture next to a pile of healthy horse manure. Eddie Allispossible

Newsdate: Monday, July 12, 2021 - 11:35 am
Location: GUELPH, Ontario

Researchers at the University of Guelph In Ontario are involved in a number of research projects related to improving the health and welfare of equines everywhere. Diego Gomez, Assistant Professor, DVM. MSc. MVSc. PhD. Dip. ACVIM is currently leading a research project related to acute diarrhea in horses.

Older horse resting in pasture.

Older horse resting in pasture

This study aims to investigate the differences in the gut bacterial communities between healthy and horses with acute diarrhea.
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Acute diarrhea is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in horses worldwide. In Ontario, the mortality rate of diarrheic horses hospitalized at the Ontario Veterinary College is 35% (n = 75/216) from which Thoroughbred and Standardbred breeds represented approximately 50% of the cases.

Several pathogens are associated with acute diarrhea in horses, however the final cause of the diarrhea is commonly not identified.

Some studies showed that the bacterial communities of the gut are distorted in horses with diarrhea, those studies included a small number of cases, and therefore the impact of gut bacteria changes on clinical outcomes such as mortality and the key bacteria associated with a healthy gut or diarrhea remains generally unidentified.

Therefore, larger clinical studies using newly developed statistical methods are needed to address these knowledge gaps, and better understand the bacterial changes that occur during diarrhea in horses.

This study aims to investigate the differences in the gut bacterial communities between healthy and horses with acute diarrhea. Additionally, this study will examine the gut bacterial communities of surviving and non-surviving diarrheic horses.

According to the mission statement of the research project: "We hypothesize that the gut bacterial communities are significantly different in horses with colitis compared to healthy control horses, and that the gut bacterial communities are particularly distinct in diarrheic non-surviving horses."

The outcome of the research will help in "Elucidating the importance of the gut microbiota in the development of diarrhea and subsequent mortality of horses and will have clinical implications."


Press release by University of Guelph - Equine HealthFlash - Summer 2021

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