The Biddle Lab was established back in 2015!
What’s the context of this research?
For horses, a belly ache can be a life-threatening event. Colic is the leading cause of death after old age and laminitis causes irreversible lameness. Both conditions are associated with changes in the bacteria in the hindgut due to factors such as dietary disruption, seasonal changes, stress or age. Both can be chronic, creating management challenges for horse owners and veterinarians.
Horses’ digestive systems are very sensitive to changes, stress or diet. We are learning in the human microbiome, there is a constant conversation between the gut microbes and the host but there hasn’t been a large-scale effort to understand those conversations and those specific relationships within the horse.
What is the significance of this research?
Equine research studies typically have a group of 12-20 horses, and it is difficult to find studies with a larger group of horses than that. Furthermore, these studies may not reflect how most horses are cared for and so the results from these studies may not be applicable to the average horse. We hope to get as many samples as possible, from all over the country. The Equine Microbiome Project was started in 2015 and so far 160 sampling kits have been sent all over the country from Massachusetts and Virginia to Oregon and California, and there is a waiting list of people who are interested in submitting samples.
The beauty of our sample library is that one horse’s sample can be reused on an indefinite list of research questions!
Identifying the microbiome differences associated with health and disease is a necessary first step to designing therapies and/or interventions to restore balance and function to the digestive system of colicky or chronically laminitic horses.