Equine Genomics - Enhanced Performance Profiling


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The complex bacterial population found in the intestine is often referred to as the "2nd genome". This is a testament to its size and complexity. The large intestine of the horse is best described as an anaerobic fermentative chamber where fibrolytic bacteria produce short chain fatty acids that account for most of the horses' energy requirements (Argenzio et al., 1974 and Glinsky et al., 1976). Maintenance of normal health in a horse is dependent upon a properly functioning intestinal tract. The microbiome is essential for the maintenance of normal health and function. The homeostatic balance of the equine intestinal microbiome is sensitive to factors such as dietary change and gastrointestinal disease. It is known that any upset to homeostatic balance may lead to catastrophic consequences such as death (Jassim et al., 2009 and Chapman 2001). The main causes of mortality in the equine species are diseases affecting the gastro-intestinal system.

In order to understand what is abnormal in the equine intestinal microbiome it is critical to understand what is normal and what is abnormal. Previously, most investigations of the equine microbiome have typically involved bacterial culture of faces or intestinal contents. The problem with culture based methods is that only allow of a superficial assessment of the components of the microbiome. This is a significant limitation since a large component of the microbiome is thought to consist of unknown or unculturable microorganisms (Daly et al., 2001 and Eckburg et al., 2005). Therefore, molecular approaches are required to analyse bacterial diversity in decal samples. New technologies in the molecular arena have led to a revolution in characterisation of complex microbial populations and are opening new doors to understanding the pathophysiology of disease states.