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PLoS One. 2014 Feb 4;9(2):e87424. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0087424. eCollection 2014.

Characterisation of the faecal bacterial community in adult and elderly horses fed a high fibre, high oil or high starch diet using 454 pyrosequencing.

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  • 1Institute of Biological Environmental and Rural Sciences, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, United Kingdom.
  • 2Equine Studies Group, WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, United Kingdom.
  • 3Michigan State University, Department of Animal Science, East Lansing, Michigan, United States of America.


Faecal samples were collected from seventeen animals, each fed three different diets (high fibre, high fibre with a starch rich supplement and high fibre with an oil rich supplement). DNA was extracted and the V1-V2 regions of 16SrDNA were 454-pyrosequenced to investigate the faecal microbiome of the horse. The effect of age was also considered by comparing mature (8 horses aged 5-12) versus elderly horses (9 horses aged 19-28). A reduction in diversity was found in the elderly horse group. Significant differences between diets were found at an OTU level (52 OTUs at corrected Q<0.1). The majority of differences found were related to the Firmucutes phylum (37) with some changes in Bacteroidetes (6), Proteobacteria (3), Actinobacteria (2) and Spirochaetes (1). For the forage only diet,with no added starch or oil, we found 30/2934 OTUs (accounting for 15.9% of sequences) present in all horses. However the core (i.e. present in all horses) associated with the oil rich supplemented diet was somewhat smaller (25/3029 OTUs, 10.3% ) and the core associated with the starch rich supplemented diet was even smaller (15/2884 OTUs, 5.4% ). The core associated with samples across all three diets was extremely small (6/5689 OTUs accounting for only 2.3% of sequences) and dominated by the order Clostridiales, with the most abundant family being Lachnospiraceae. In conclusion, forage based diets plus starch or oil rich complementary feeds were associated with differences in the faecal bacterial community compared with the forage alone. Further, as observed in people, ageing is associated with a reduction in bacterial diversity. However there was no change in the bacterial community structure in these healthy animals associated with age.

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