Removal of adult cyathostomins alters faecal microbiota and promotes an inflammatory phenotype in horses

Int J Parasitol. 2019 May;49(6):489-500. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2019.02.003. Epub 2019 Apr 12.


The interactions between parasitic helminths and gut microbiota are considered to be an important, although as yet incompletely understood, factor in the regulation of immunity, inflammation and a range of diseases. Infection with intestinal helminths is ubiquitous in grazing horses, with cyathostomins (about 50 species of which are recorded) predominating. Consequences of infection include both chronic effects, and an acute inflammatory syndrome, acute larval cyathostominosis, which sometimes follows removal of adult helminths by administration of anthelmintic drugs. The presence of cyathostomins as a resident helminth population of the equine gut (the "helminthome") provides an opportunity to investigate the effect helminth infection, and its perturbation, has on both the immune system and bacterial microbiome of the gut, as well as to determine the specific mechanisms of pathophysiology involved in equine acute larval cyathostominosis. We studied changes in the faecal microbiota of two groups of horses following treatment with anthelmintics (fenbendazole or moxidectin). We found decreases in both alpha diversity and beta diversity of the faecal microbiota at Day 7 post-treatment, which were reversed by Day 14. These changes were accompanied by increases in inflammatory biomarkers. The general pattern of faecal microbiota detected was similar to that seen in the relatively few equine gut microbiome studies reported to date. We conclude that interplay between resident cyathostomin populations and the bacterial microbiota of the equine large intestine is important in maintaining homeostasis and that disturbance of this ecology can lead to gut dysbiosis and play a role in the aetiology of inflammatory conditions in the horse, including acute larval cyathostominosis.

Keywords: Anthelmintics; Cyathostomins; Dysbiosis; Helminths; Horses; Microbiota; Stongyles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Albumins / metabolism
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Feces / chemistry
  • Feces / microbiology*
  • Female
  • Fibrinogen / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Globulins / metabolism
  • Horse Diseases / microbiology
  • Horse Diseases / parasitology*
  • Horse Diseases / therapy*
  • Horses
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Phenotype
  • Prospective Studies
  • Random Allocation
  • Serum / chemistry
  • Strongylida Infections / parasitology
  • Strongylida Infections / therapy
  • Strongylida Infections / veterinary*
  • Strongyloidea / isolation & purification*


  • Albumins
  • Globulins
  • Fibrinogen