Evaluation of the ocular surface mycobiota in clinically normal horses.
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The eye is host to myriad bacterial, fungal, and viral organisms that likely influence ocular surface physiology in normal and diseased states. The ocular surface mycobiota of horses has not yet been described using NGS techniques. This study aimed to characterize the ocular surface fungal microbiota (mycobiota) in healthy horses in 2 environmental conditions (stalled versus pasture). Conjunctival swabs of both eyes were obtained from 7 adult stallions stabled in an open-air pavilion and 5 adult mares living on pasture. Genomic DNA was extracted from ocular surface swabs and sequenced using primers that target the Internal Transcribed Spacer 1 (ITS1) region of the fungal genome on an Illumina platform. Sequences were processed using Quantitative Insights Into Molecular Ecology (QIIME 2.0) and taxonomy assigned with the Findley et al. 2013 ITS1 database. The most abundant genera identified were Leptosphaerulina (22.7%), unclassified Pleosporaceae (17.3%), Cladosporium (16.2%), Alternaria (9.8%), unclassified Pleosporales (4.4%), unclassified Montagnulaceae (2.9%), Fusarium (2.5%), and Pestalotiopsis (1.4%). Fungal community composition (Jaccard, R = 0.460, p = 0.001) and structure (Bray-Curtis, R = 0.811, p = 0.001) were significantly different between pastured mares and stabled stallions. The ocular surface of pastured mares had significantly increased fungal species richness and diversity compared to stabled stallions (Shannon p = 0.0224, Chao1 p = 0.0118, Observed OTUs p = 0.0241). Relative abundances of Aspergillus (p = 0.005) and Alternaria spp. (p = 0.002) were significantly increased in the mycobiota of pastured mares. This is the first report to describe the mycobiota of the equine ocular surface. Environmental factors such as housing influence the composition, structure, and richness of the equine ocular surface mycobiota.