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Equine microbiome testing: development of strategies to enable routine microbiome diagnostics in the horse

  • School: School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences
  • Study mode(s): Full-time / Part-time
  • Starting: 2023
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Fully-funded


NTU's Fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme 2023

Project ID: ARES13

Both animals and humans have a complex and wide-ranging set of microorganisms present in the gut. The intricate and multifaceted interactions between these resident microorganisms have been linked with disease risks, health preservation, immunity, and therapeutic opportunities in both human and veterinary medicine. The horse’s digestive tract is home to a distinct variety of microorganisms, which has been shown to differ throughout the digestive tract. The unique and individual makeup of microbes are essential for assisting with nutrient supplies and supporting immune health, however can also contain taxa that can cause disease. Horses are monogastric herbivorous with a complex hindgut microbiota that enables the utilisation of forage for optimal nutrition. These microorganisms provide a significant portion if the horse’s daily energy requirements by fermenting plant material to short chain fatty acids and other nutrients. Ergo, digestive disturbance in the horse’s microbiota can alter the fermentation process, which can ultimately lead to metabolic and other disorders.

In the human field, commercially available microbiome tests have become increasingly popular, enabling identification of key indicators of gut health through microbial DNA assessment. This has enabled providers to use data to measure the balance between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut, and provide accurate food and probiotic recommendations to optimise the microbiome. Globally, we are in need of definitive and robust recommendations to enable the application of this routine diagnostic assessment in the horse, thus enabling owners to safeguard health, welfare and performance, with key dietary recommendations to support immune health, metabolic function and prevent related diseases. This PhD will serve to develop a robust equine microbial sequencing test strategy to reliably enable this application in the horse as an initial model.


  1. review the field and identify current microbiome standards in the horse and alterations associated with disease, nutrition, management etc.
  1. using next generation sequencing, optimise and validate standard microbial testing in the horse
  1. co-create, with a range of stakeholders and users, a definitive equine microbiome strategy to meet consumer demand

We will use best practice from both human and equine microbiome research to inform a systematic and robust strategy for delivering routine microbiome assessments going forward.

Supervisory Team:

Dr Samuel J White – director of studies

Dr Elena Hunter - co-supervisor

Prof Philippe B Wilson - advisor

Entry qualifications

For the eligibility criteria, visit our studentship application page.

How to apply

To make an application, please visit our studentship application page.

Fees and funding

This is part of NTU's 2023 fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme.

Guidance and support

Application guidance can be found on our studentship application page.

Still need help?

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