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(BBSRC DTP) Developing biomarkers of inflammatory gut responses in free-ranging, healthy and diseased equid populations.


Project Description

In managed horses (and other equids), disorders associated with inflammation in the equine gastrointestinal (GI) tract, including gastric ulcers, high parasite burdens and enteritis/colitis are widepsread health and welfare issues. We currently do not know how prevalent these issues are in free-ranging populations. This project will use a combination of stress and inflammatory markers, parasite and microbiome anlayses to compare gastrointestinal health in both intensively managed and free-ranging horse populations. This information can be used to guide management of horse GI systems and to understand how unmanaged horse guts respond to environmental and seasonal challenges.
Objectives: This project will use an integrated evaluation of risk factors and gut biomarkers to: 1) validate and further develop the application of gut inflammation markers and microbiome community changes with clinically confirmed pathologies, and 2) apply the biomarkers validated in (1) to characterise variation in gastrointestinal inflammation in managed and free-ranging horses in response to parasites, stress, microbiome and diet.
Study design: The study is divided into two parts: A) The student will validate inflammatory and microbial biomarkers in horses with diagnosed acute GI inflammation (severe gastric ulceration, high parasite burdens and colitis). Horses will be monitored for changes in inflammation markers and microbiome from initial diagnosis through treatment and post recovery. B) The student will then monitor changes in inflammatory gut biomarkers across three populations: 1) intensively managed sport horses, 2) semi-intensively managed leisure horses, and 3) a population of free-ranging semi-feral ponies. For the free-ranging population, the student will conduct observational data and collect samples from the Carneddau mountain ponies in Snowdonia National Park. These ponies have been studied for over ten-years, and our previous has shown that: 1) that
In managed horses (and other equids), disorders associated with inflammation in the equine gastrointestinal (GI) tract, including gastric ulcers, high parasite burdens and enteritis/colitis are widepsread health and welfare issues. We currently do not know how prevalent these issues are in free-ranging populations. This project will use a combination of stress and inflammatory markers, parasite and microbiome anlayses to compare gastrointestinal health in both intensively managed and free-ranging horse populations. This information can be used to guide management of horse GI systems and to understand how unmanaged horse guts respond to environmental and seasonal challenges.
Objectives: This project will use an integrated evaluation of risk factors and gut biomarkers to: 1) validate and further develop the application of gut inflammation markers and microbiome community changes with clinically confirmed pathologies, and 2) apply the biomarkers validated in (1) to characterise variation in gastrointestinal inflammation in managed and free-ranging horses in response to parasites, stress, microbiome and diet.
Study design: The study is divided into two parts: A) The student will validate inflammatory and microbial biomarkers in horses with diagnosed acute GI inflammation (severe gastric ulceration, high parasite burdens and colitis). Horses will be monitored for changes in inflammation markers and microbiome from initial diagnosis through treatment and post recovery. B) The student will then monitor changes in inflammatory gut biomarkers across three populations: 1) intensively managed sport horses, 2) semi-intensively managed leisure horses, and 3) a population of free-ranging semi-feral ponies. For the free-ranging population, the student will conduct observational data and collect samples from the Carneddau mountain ponies in Snowdonia National Park. These ponies have been studied for over ten-years, and our previous has shown that: 1) that parasite loads are highly variable, 2) that cortisol and faecal oxidative stress respond to stressors, and 3) that microbiome community structure varies over time and space across the population.

Supervisory team:
Susanne Shultz: https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/susanne.shultz.html
Kathyrn Else: https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/en/researchers/kathryn-else%28ad18c0c5-3bae-41ff-8b40-683fa2530031%29.html
Sheena Cruikshank: https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/en/researchers/sheena-cruickshank%2839ba8b41-fba1-46c0-ae1a-cb9236dbc82f%29.html

External partners:
Debra Archer: https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/equine/team/debra-archer/
Rachael Antwis: https://www.salford.ac.uk/environment-life-sciences/our-staff/els-academics/rachael-antwis

Entry Requirements:
Applications are invited from UK/EU nationals only. Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject.

Funding Notes

This project is to be funded under the BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership. If you are interested in this project, please make direct contact with the Principal Supervisor to arrange to discuss the project further as soon as possible. You MUST also submit an online application form - full details on how to apply can be found on the BBSRC DTP website View Website

As an equal opportunities institution we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.

How good is research at The University of Manchester in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 42.13

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