Why I Am So Excited About Microbiota!

E. coli bacteriaDid you know that your intestines are home to a complex and fascinating community of microorganisms including eukaryotes, archaea, bacteria and viruses?  In fact there are ten times more bacteria in our bodies than cells.  These microorganisms account for 1-3% of our body mass.  In healthy people, these microbes exist in harmony within our bodies serving essential functions such as synthesizing certain vitamins, breaking down and extracting nutrients from the food we eat, train our immune systems to recognize invaders, produce anti-inflammatory compounds, and balance our brain chemistry.  A growing body of research suggests illness, stress, poor diet and certain medications can adversely affect our microbiota, potentially causing disease1.  On the upside, however, it may also be possible to heal disease by rebalancing our gut environment.  Scientists working on The Human Microbiome Project, are busy exploring these questions.   An identical effort, The Equine Microbiome Project, is underway on behalf of our equine friends.  Using technology developed during the sequencing of the human genome, both projects are working to isolate and characterize microbiota across as many people and horses as possible, with the intent of identifying microbiome differences associated with health and disease.

The Biddle Lab in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences at the University of Delaware is front and center of the Equine Microbiome Project.  Dr. Biddle and her team are discerning differences between the microbiota of “hard keepers” versus “easy keepers” as well as horses impacted by colic and laminitis and those horses who have not been afflicted. They are also looking at how age, environmental stressors, and diet, impact gut health.  You can become part of this exciting project by submitting a sample of manure from your horse.  The bacteria present in your horse’s manure will be identified using DNA sequencing.  You will receive the results which you can compare with samples already in the database.  You can submit new samples over time to evaluate how your management is affecting your horse’s microbiota.

Mark Your Calendar! On April 26th Dr. Amy Biddle will present her fascinating research from the Equine Microbiome Project. Sponsored by Blue Waters Farm and graciously hosted by Hassler Dressage. This event is free and open to the public but you must register by April 24th.  Light hors d’oeuvre will be served from 6:00-6:45. Lecture 6:45-7:30.  To register, click here.

  1. Auto-immune diseases such as type II diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and certain cancers. Neuro-chemical imbalances in the brain such as schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder may also be related to microbiome dysfunction.

Further Reading:

  • To learn more about microbiota, click here.
  • To learn more about the Human Microbiome Project, click here
  • To learn more about the Equine Microbiome Project, click here
  • To submit a fecal sample to learn more about your microbiome, click here,
  • To submit a manure sample from your horse and participate in the Equine Microbiome Project, click here
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