Education: Bachelor of Science in animal science and industry (May 2015)
McNair Project: Dosing of Horses with Megasphaera elsdenii and its Impact on Cecal Volatile Fatty Acid Production (2014)
Mentor: Teresa Douthit, Ph.D.
The digestive system of a horse contains a large number of microorganisms, with the majority located in the hindgut. This microbial community is responsible for degradation of feedstuff to allow absorption and utilization of essential intermediate substrates—namely volatile fatty acids—while maintaining a normal pH level. Native bacteria, referred to as lactate-utilizing bacteria (LUB), prevent the accumulation of excessive lactate, which can cause laminitis, a debilitating and often life-threatening condition in the horse. One LUB found in the hindgut of the horse is called Megasphaera elsdenii (ME). Megasphaera elsdenii is a gram-negative bacterium that is being investigated as a probiotic supplement for ruminants, as it may provide benefits for energy balance and animal productivity. It is of biotechnological interest due to its capability of producing various volatile fatty acids, which are primary energy sources for horses. Measuring cecal VFAs from horses dosed with Megasphaera elsdenii will provide valuable information regarding ME’s ability to survive transit through the foregut and its subsequent ability to impact fermentation in the hindgut.