August 8, 2019- The very first Havemeyer Foundation* workshop on acute colitis in the adult horse was held in Niagara-on-the-lake, Ontario from July 15-17, 2019. The event was chaired by ResearchONequine researcher Dr. Luis Arroyo, associate professor at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph.

Equine colitis, or inflammation of the colon, is an acute, life-threatening disease, and, in approximately 60% of cases, the cause is unknown. For veterinarians and owners alike, the lack of cause makes treatment and prevention challenging and frustrating. Although much research has taken place particularly in the areas of evidence-based treatment protocols and the contribution of the intestinal microbiome to disease, more research is needed. Hence, why Arroyo and his colleague Dr John Prescott, Professor Emeritus at the University of Guelph, decided to pitch the idea of the workshop to the Havemeyer Foundation.

The workshop was attended by 33 international equine scientists from Canada, the United States of America, Australia, Japan, Denmark and Scotland. On the first day, presenters addressed the common causes of acute equine colitis, namely Salmonella sp. , Neorickettsi risticii, the causative agent of Potomac Horse Fever, acorn-associated colitis, coronavirus and Clostridium difficile/perfringens/sordellii associated colitis, laying down the foundation for a lively discussion on the growing number of agents involved in this disease.  

On Day 2, the extensive body of work describing the equine microbiome (the genetic material of all the microbes – bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses) was summarized along with the microbiome changes that occur with antibiotic-associated colitis and colitis in the older horse. Comparisons were made to the human microbiome and to that of other species. An in-depth summary of inflammation and its role in colitis followed.

In the afternoon, the focus of discussion was on the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of acute colitis. From serum amyloid A (an acute phase protein produced in response to inflammation) as a prognostic indicator to the use of plasma and hetastarch in the treatment of colitis, evidence for the standard of care for colitis patients was discussed.

At the close of the meeting Arroyo summarized the key opportunities that arose from the workshop and the focus areas for further research.

*The Havemeyer Foundation, founded in 1979 and financially supported by Dorothy Russell Havemeyer, is a private foundation that conducts research to improve horse health and welfare. It sponsors workshops related to its scientific research projects with 25-30 invited scientists attending and presenting their work.

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