Does prebiotic feeding affect equine gastric health? A study on the effects of prebiotic-induced gastric butyric acid production on mucosal integrity of the equine stomach
Fructo-oligosaccharides are commonly administered as prebiotics to horses in order to reduce the risk of disruption of microbial populations in the hindgut. Their microbial degradation to SCFA already begins in the stomach potentially resulting in increased gastric concentrations of SCFA such as butyric acid. The impact of butyric acid on the squamous mucosa is postulated to be detrimental, its effects on the glandular mucosa are yet unknown. Thus, the aim of this study was to determine the effects of butyric acid exposure on the functional integrity and morphology of the equine nonglandular and glandular gastric mucosa using butyric acid concentrations equivalent to the ones found in horses subjected to prebiotic fructo-oligosaccharides feeding. Gastric mucosal samples of healthy horses were exposed to butyric acid using the in vitro Ussing chamber technique. Electrophysiological parameters were continuously monitored, mucosal samples were blinded and histomorphological analysis was performed using a scoring system for assessment of histopathologic changes. Exposure to butyric acid resulted in pathohistomorphological changes in the glandular mucosa and in impairment of functional mucosal integrity in the squamous and the glandular mucosa as documented by significant changes in tissue conductances (Gt). Administration of fructo-oligosaccharides as a preventive prebiotic measure to horses should therefore be carefully considered, particularly in horses known to be at risk of developing EGUS.