Equine veterinary journal2023; doi: 10.1111/evj.13961

The faecal microbiome of Exmoor ponies shows step-wise compositional changes with increasing levels of management by humans.

Abstract: Horses can suffer from gastrointestinal (GI) disease in domestic environments, often precipitated by human-led changes in management. Understanding the consequences of these changes on equine gut microbiota is key to the prevention of such disease episodes. Objective: Profile the faecal microbiota of adult female Exmoor ponies under three management conditions, representing increasing levels of management by humans, encompassing different diets; whilst controlling for age, breed and sex. Methods: Cross-sectional descriptive. Methods: Faecal samples were collected from three populations of Exmoor ponies kept under contrasting management conditions: 29 adult female ponies in groups with low management (LM) (n = 10), medium management (MM) (n = 10) and high management (HM) (n = 9) levels, based on diet, drug use, handling and exercise. Faecal microbial composition was profiled via high-throughput sequencing of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene, and functional metagenome predictions. Results: We observed profound step-wise changes in microbiome structure in the transition from LM to MM to HM. A relatively high abundance of Proteobacteria and Tenericutes was associated with the HM group; higher abundance of Methanobacteria was observed in the LM group. The MM group had intermediate levels of these taxa and exhibited high 'within group' variation in alpha diversity. Functional predictions revealed increased amino acid and lipid metabolism in HM; energy metabolism in LM and carbohydrate metabolism and immune/metabolic disease pathways in MM. Conclusions: Low group sizes, incomplete knowledge of bacterial genomes in equine gut microbiota and it was not possible to assess the relative impact of diet, drug use, handling and exercise on the microbiome as variables were confounded. Conclusions: Human-led management factors had profound step-wise effects on faecal microbial composition. Based on functional metagenome predictions, we hypothesise that dietary differences between groups were the major driver of observed differences.
Publication Date: 2023-06-02 PubMed ID: 37264698DOI: 10.1111/evj.13961Google Scholar: Lookup
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  • Journal Article

Summary

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The research study investigates the effects of varying degrees of human intervention on the gut microbiota of Exmoor ponies. Increasing levels of management, including diet and medication changes, showed marked step-wise changes in the structure of the faecal microbiome of these ponies.

Objective and Methodology

  • The main goal of this research was to dissect the impact of different management conditions on the faecal microbiota of adult, female Exmoor ponies. The levels of management being studied were classified into low (LM), medium (MM), and high (HM), with each level representing different degrees of human intervention concerning diet, drug usage, handling, and exercise.
  • This was cross-sectional descriptive research. The faecal samples collected from the three distinct groups of ponies were studied using high-throughput sequencing of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene to profile their faecal microbial composition, followed by functional metagenome predictions.

Results

  • The study detected significant step-by-step alterations in microbiome architecture from LM transitioning to MM and then to HM. The faecal microbiota of the HM group was marked by an increased occurrence of Proteobacteria and Tenericutes. In contrast, the LM group showed a higher abundance of Methanobacteria. The MM group showed intermediate levels of these bacterial taxa and exhibited a higher within-group variation in alpha diversity.
  • The functional metagenome predictions indicated enhanced amino acid and lipid metabolism in the HM group. On the other hand, the LM group showed elevated energy metabolism, while carbohydrate metabolism and immune/metabolic disease pathways were more pronounced in the MM group.

Conclusions

  • Some limitations of the study included small group sizes and incomplete knowledge of bacterial genomes in the equine gut microbiota, as well as the inability to assess the comparative impact of diet, drug use, handling, and exercise on the microbiome due to confounding variables.
  • Nevertheless, the study concludes that human-led management factors significantly influence the structure of the horses’ faecal microbiome. The researchers hypothesize based on the functional metagenome predictions that the dietary differences between the management groups were the primary influence leading to the observed microbiome differences.

Cite This Article

APA
Bull K, Davies G, Jenkins TP, Peachey L. (2023). The faecal microbiome of Exmoor ponies shows step-wise compositional changes with increasing levels of management by humans. Equine Vet J. https://doi.org/10.1111/evj.13961

Publication

ISSN: 2042-3306
NlmUniqueID: 0173320
Country: United States
Language: English

Researcher Affiliations

Bull, Katie
  • School of Veterinary Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.
Davies, Gareth
  • School of Veterinary Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.
Jenkins, Timothy P
  • Department of Biotechnology and Biomedicine, Technical University of Denmark, Kongens Lyngby, Denmark.
Peachey, Laura
  • School of Veterinary Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.
  • Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

Grant Funding

  • University of Bristol

References

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