Overgrowth of enteric clostridia in dysbiosis in horses with colic is presumed but scarcely investigated. The objective was to provide prevalence data of Clostridium difficile and Clostridium perfringens in horses with and without gastrointestinal disease in Switzerland, and investigate microbiota differences between C. difficile shedders and non-shedders.
Fecal samples were taken from healthy horses (n = 103), horses with colic (n = 98) and horses with diarrhea (n = 151). Colic horses were sampled on three days. Selective enrichment culture and molecular typing for C. difficile and C. perfringens was performed. Microbiota differences between horses with colic shedding (n = 7) and not shedding (n = 7) C. difficile were assessed using metagenomic sequencing.
The cumulative prevalence (19% C. difficile; 16% C. perfringens) was higher compared to single day samples (1–10% C. difficile; 3–8% C. perfringens, all p < 0.003). Horses with colic shed significantly more C. difficile (p < 0.001) but not C. perfringens (p = 0.09) compared to healthy horses. Prevalence in horses with diarrhea was 8% for both Clostridium species. There were no significant microbiota differences between C. difficile shedders and non-shedders with regards to relative abundance on any phylogenetic level, and alpha diversity. Limited differences were seen on LEfSE analysis and in beta diversity indices.
Multiple fecal samples should be taken when investigating shedding of enteric clostridia. As horses with colic shed more enteric clostridia compared to healthy horses special biosecurity protocols for horses with colic should be considered in hospitals. Differences in microbiota composition between C. difficile shedders and non-shedders were limited. Further studies on the role of dysbiosis in C. difficile are needed.