Free faecal water: Analysis of horse faecal microbiota and the impact of faecal microbial transplantation on symptom severity

Louise Laustsen, Joan E. Edwards*, Gerben D.A. Hermes, Nanna Lúthersson, David A. van Doorn, Supattra Okrathok, Theresa J. Kujawa, Hauke Smidt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Free faecal water (FFW) in equines results in pollution of the hindquarters and tail and can also involve clinical signs. Though the cause of FFW is unknown, it was hypothesized that it may involve the gut microbiota. This hypothesis was addressed as follows. First, the faecal prokaryotic community composition of horses suffering from FFW relative to healthy controls (n = 10) was compared. Second, FFW horses were treated with a standardised faecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) protocol (n = 10), followed by assessment of FFW symptom severity and faecal prokaryotic community composition over a follow‐up period of 168 days. No significant differences were found in the faecal microbiota composition of FFW horses compared to healthy controls (p > 0.05). Relative to before FMT, FFW symptom severity decreased in affected horses 14 days after FMT (p = 0.02) and remained decreased for the remainder of the study (p < 0.02). However, individual animal responses to FMT varied. FMT had no effect on FFW horse faecal prokaryotic community composition in terms of alpha or beta diversity. Alpha diversity of the donor inocula used in the FMT was always lower than that of the faecal microbiota of the FFW treated horses (p < 0.001). In conclusion, whilst findings indicate FFW horses do not have an altered hindgut microbiota, some horses that received FMT had a temporary alleviation of FFW symptom severity without causing changes in the faecal microbiota. Future studies using controls are now needed to confirm the effectiveness of FMT to treat FFW.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2776
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sep 2021


  • Archaea
  • Bacteria
  • Equine
  • Faecal water syndrome
  • Faeces
  • Free faecal liquid
  • Hindgut
  • Prokaryote
  • PRJEB35172
  • PRJEB45364


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