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Trial currently running on metabolomics testing, supported by Superfix, Aberystwyth University and two major veterinary hospitals.

 

Competition horses are highly exposed and susceptible to both respiratory bacterial and viral infections. However the airway and systemic inflammation of thoroughbred horses is a multifactorial problem and remains a diagnostic challenge. The proposed study will advance the understanding of factors which influence susceptibility to respiratory disease in horses. Studying the interactions between nutritional intervention, exercise and the immune system helps to provide crucial information about the mechanisms that are responsible for such responses. Moreover, a better physiological understanding of the metabolic changes in horses with training could identify novel targets for brand new treatments and interventions. The scientific merit of this proposal is reflected by the uncertainty in the clinically important area of infection risk in horses, balanced against the enormous potential of novel (and cheap) technologies to improve phenotypic characterisation of horses for better diagnosis, risk assessment and efficacious preventive intervention to optimise exercise training.

 

Neutrophil oxidative burst

 

  • The investigation of neutrophil responses in blood of horses will increase the understanding of infection risk and inflammation - The project will validate neutrophil responses and provide better phenotyping of horses most at risk of overtraining (e.g. exercise training load can be modified according to horses’ response).

  • The measurement of the above neutrophil responses are now available as a quantifiable and reproducible assay that can be performed close to the horse on a portable luminometer (ABEL-Meter). The test has been validated for many years in human elite sport to predict or diagnose infection with common pathogens but it has yet to be applied to the equine setting. This project intends to provide the training yard with a point of care tool, in the field setting, that can be used immediately upon completion.

     

 

Metabolomics / Proteomics

 

Post-genomic technologies allow a wide-ranging molecular description of the status of a horse to be measured and, crucially, explained at a molecular level.  These non-targeted, or unbiased, metabolomics enables reliable identification of small molecule biomarkers characteristic for a particular physiological state in response to internal or external perturbations. Our data analytic approach achieves maximum coverage and elucidation of the metabolome’s chemical space, and is likely to become the state-of-the-art method in this field.

 

  • This project will use proteomic approaches to determine the entire complement of proteins produced by a horse. Metabolomics will provide a robust ‘global metabolic snapshot’ of the horse by simultaneously determining as many metabolites as possible without bias towards any particular group.

  • Relationships of metabolites/peptides with indicators of the overall immunological status of the horse (e.g. blood neutrophil oxidative burst, routine blood profile) and tolerance of exercise training will be investigated.

 

 

 

Saliva bacterial load

 

  • This project will exploit a next generation sequencing platform to describe the microbiome (i.e. bacterial species) of horses. These microbiomic approaches will allow the low-cost high-throughput sequencing of every bacterial gene (16S rRNA) based on which the identities of most bacteria in a sample can be established.

  • We will aim to demonstrate the changes in bacterial colonisation in horses during exercise training and identify which species are most important to determine risk of illness - these microbial markers will direct further investigations to promote targeted interventions for prevention and/or more effective treatment of respiratory illness in the equine industry.

 

 

Bovine colostrum intervention

 

  • We have observed reduction in incidence of respiratory illness (and gut damage) following exercise in humans, this project will explore the influence of bovine colostrum on immunological/inflammatory parameters and susceptibility to respiratory disease in horses.

    This project will not only increase understanding of the immunological/inflammatory responses to exercise training but will also conduct a concurrent investigation of a potential nutritional countermeasure that can be used immediately in the equine industry.