Effects of faecal microbiota transplant therapy on infectious diarrhoea in foals

Charles Sturt University

  • Project code: PRJ-012082

  • Project stage: Closed

  • Project start date: Thursday, July 2, 2020

  • Project completion date: Thursday, May 4, 2023

  • Journal Articles From Project: The effects of faecal microbiota transplantation on clinical outcomes and faecal microbiota in foals with diarrhoea Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine (Issue: intended in next 12 months on 2/2/2024)

  • National Priority: HOR-Thoroughbred diseases and parasites


Diarrhoea is common in foals and can lead to marked morbidity and also death, particularly when infectious agents are involved. Important bacterial causes of foal diarrhoea include Clostridium difficile, C. perfringens and Salmonella species, which often result in systemic responses and risk of organ dysfunction. Treatment of diarrhoea is usually symptomatic to address homeostatic derangements and systemic effects and antimicrobial agents are frequently used when bacterial agents are suspected/confirmed. A major limitation of these treatment strategies is an inability to directly influence the disruption in the intestinal bacterial microbiota: this is a critical challenge and therapeutic goal.
This project will investigate the safety, clinical efficacy and metagenomic effects on the microbiota of faecal microbiota transplant (FMT) in foals with bacterial diarrhoea. A randomised placebo-controlled clinical trial will be undertaken using foals presented for veterinary management of bacterial diarrhoea. Foals will be randomly allocated into 2 groups and treated with FMT solution or electrolyte solution. Faecal samples will be obtained before and after treatment for next generation sequencing (metagenomics) to determine effects on the microbiota and recovery of target pathogens for comparisons between groups. Foal outcome data will be compared.
The outcomes of the project will be disseminated to all Thoroughbred breeding industry stakeholders using various communication strategies and platforms, including extension opportunities for direct engagement.
The research outcomes will benefit the Australian Thoroughbred industry through development of evidence-based strategies for the management of bacterial diarrhoea in foals, to reduce the impacts of disease and advance foal health and welfare.


Thoroughbred Horses

Research Organisation

Charles Sturt University

Objective Summary

This project is aligned with Objective 1 of the Thoroughbred Horse Program 2017-2022 RD&E Plan and the priority of improving foal health by addressing conditions that adversely affect foal health at the individual animal and population levels. In addition, there is cross-over of the project into Objective 2 and the priority of reducing the impact of diseases that affect horse health. Specifically, the major objectives of the project are to:
1. Investigate the estimated prevalence of specific infectious agents involved in foal diarrhoea in Australia
2. Assess the clinical efficacy of faecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) in the management of infectious diarrhoea in foals in a randomised clinical trail
3. Assess the longitudinal effects of FMT on the faecal bacterial microbiota of foals with infectious diarrhoea
4. Determine and report the outcomes (survival, complications) of foals with infectious diarrhoea.
The expected outcomes of the project are:
1. The determination of the estimated prevalence of important infectious pathogens in foal diarrhoea in southern Australia
2. Generate clinical data to determine the clinical benefits of FMT to substantiate the implementation of this innovative method in the management of foal diarrhoea
3. Establish the effect of FMT on the intestinal microbiota of foals with diarrhoea, including re-establishment of bacterial microbiota diversity and richness and beneficial modification of the microbiota
4. Important contributions to advancing evidence-based approaches to the clinical treatment of foal diarrhoea and reductions in foal morbidity, mortality and wastage from the Australian Thoroughbred industry.