Horse Microbiome Research Group

Welcome to the Horse Microbiome Research Group. We are a multi-disciplinary group of scientists and clinicians committed to enhancing horse health and wellbeing through understanding how microbe communities (bacteria, viruses, fungi) interact with their equine hosts and how they influence health, welfare and athletic performance.

Research overview

What we research

The Gut Microbiome:

  • How does the hindgut microbiome change in different diseases?
  • How does the neonatal foal gut become colonised with bacteria.
  • How do early-life gut bacterial communities influence health and athletic performance in later life?
  • How can we influence the development and maintenance of a healthy gut microbiome?

Why we do this research

Our mission is to enhance the health and wellbeing of horses through understanding the important role of gut bacterial communities. There is strong scientific evidence supporting the involvement of gut bacteria in many aspects of human health including immunity, allergy, behaviour and energy metabolism. We believe that gut bacterial communities are no less important to equine health.

Through understanding the horse – gut microbiome relationship, we aim to develop management and intervention strategies that optimise horse health and performance.

Research methods

Population-based studies

The starting point for much of our work is understanding and describing microbial communities in populations of horses, in health, in disease and at all stages of the animal’s life. Faecal samples are collected to evaluate gut microbial communities; health and performance data from horses in the study group may also be collected.

Next-generation sequencing

We use both 16S rRNA gene sequencing and, increasingly, shotgun metagenomic sequencing to describe the bacterial communities that we study.

Multivariable statistics

Integration of diverse data types and recognising patterns in large datasets is difficult. We use a range of statistical methods and analytical approaches to interrogate and understand our data.

In vitro gut model

We have developed and validated a continuous flow, multi-compartment model of the equine hindgut. This model provides a convenient and cost-effective method for studying living hindgut microbial communities and their response to interventions.

See: “Bowel on the Bench”: Proof of Concept of a Three-Stage, In Vitro Fermentation Model of the Equine Large Intestine (PDF)

Meet the team

Professor Christopher Proudman

Principal Investigator

Chris Proudman graduated from Cambridge University Vet School in 1988 and was awarded a PhD in Equine Epidemiology from University of Liverpool in 1996. His academic career has embraced teaching equine medicine and surgery, equine intestinal disease research and various leadership roles at the University of Liverpool.He has a long-standing involvement with the horseracing indust...

Professor Roberto La Ragione

Principal Investigator

Roberto graduated in 1995 and then went on to study for a post graduate degree in veterinary microbiology at the Royal Veterinary College (University of London). In 1996 he moved to the government's Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) to undertake a PhD on the pathogenesis of E. coli in poultry. On completion of his PhD studies, Roberto commenced a post-doctoral position at Roy...