Alterations in microbiota and fermentation products in equine large intestine in response to dietary variation and intestinal disease

Kristian Daly, Christopher J. Proudman, Sylvia H. Duncan, Harry J. Flint, Jane Dyer, Soraya P. Shirazi-Beechey*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

129 Citations (Scopus)


We aimed to determine the effects of variations in dietary composition on equine gut microbiota and their fermentation products, and proposed that dietary modifications profoundly affect microbial ecosystems and their metabolites. Bacterial communities within the large intestine of three groups of horses were compared using oligonucleotide-RNA hybridisation methodology. Each group consisting of six horses was maintained on (1) a grass-only diet, (2) a concentrate diet (i.e. supplemented with hydrolysable carbohydrates) and (3) a concentrate diet but horses were affected by simple colonic obstruction and distension (SCOD), a prevalent form of dietary-induced intestinal disease. We show that in response to dietary change and intestinal disease, there is a progressive and significant increase in Lachnospiraceae, the Bacteroidetes assemblage and the lactic acid-producing, Bacillus-Lactobacillus-Streptococcus (BLS) group. In contrast, there is a corresponding decrease in the proportion of obligate fibrolytic, acid-intolerant bacteria, Fibrobacter and Ruminococcaceae. Assessment of monocarboxylic acids indicated that there are significantly higher concentrations of lactic acid in the colonic contents of horses maintained on a concentrate diet and those suffering from SCOD, correlating with the observed increase in the population abundance of the BLS group. However, the population size of the Veillonellaceae (lactate utilisers) remained constant in each study group. The inability of this group to respond to increased lactic acid may be a contributory factor to the build-up of lactic acid observed in horses fed a concentrate diet and those suffering from SCOD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)989-995
Number of pages7
JournalBritish Journal of Nutrition
Issue number7
Early online date5 Aug 2011
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2012


  • risk-factors
  • ecology
  • horses
  • intestinal microbiota
  • acidosis
  • gastrointestinal-tract
  • hybridization probes
  • equine intestine
  • human feces
  • ruminal bacteria
  • diet
  • oligonucleotide probes
  • butyrate


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