Alterations in Intestinal Permeability: The Role of the "Leaky Gut" in Health and Disease
[Review of ]. JOURNAL OF EQUINE VETERINARY SCIENCE, 52, 10–22.
All species, including horses, suffer from alterations that increase intestinal permeability. These alterations, also known as gut, may lead to severe disease as the normal intestinal barrier becomes compromised and can no longer protect against harmful luminal contents including microbial toxins and pathogens. Leaky gut results from a variety of conditions including physical stressors, decreased blood flow to the intestine, inflammatory disease, and pathogenic infections, among others. Several testing methods exist to diagnose these alterations in both a clinical and research setting. To date, most research has focused on regulation of the host immune response due to the wide variety of factors that can potentially influence the intestinal barrier. This article serves to review the normal intestinal barrier, measurement of barrier permeability, pathogenesis and main causes of altered permeability, and highlight potential alternative therapies of leaky gut in horses while relating what has been studied in other species. Conditions resulting in barrier dysfunction and leaky gut can be a major cause of decreased performance and also death in horses. A better understanding of the intestinal barrier in disease and ways to optimize the function of this barrier is vital to the long-term health and maintenance of these animals.