Down for the count: Cryptosporidium infection depletes the gut microbiome in Coquerel's sifakas.
Background: The gut microbiome (GMB) is the first line of defense against enteric pathogens, which are a leading cause of disease and mortality worldwide. One such pathogen, the protozoan Cryptosporidium, causes a variety of digestive disorders that can be devastating and even lethal. The Coquerel's sifaka (Propithecus coquereli) - an endangered, folivorous primate endemic to Madagascar - is precariously susceptible to cryptosporidiosis under captive conditions. If left untreated, infection can rapidly advance to morbidity and death. Objective: To gain a richer understanding of the pathophysiology of this pathogen while also improving captive management of endangered species, we examine the impact of cryptosporidiosis on the GMB of a flagship species known to experience a debilitating disease state upon infection. Design: Using 16S sequencing of DNA extracted from sifaka fecal samples, we compared the microbial communities of healthy sifakas to those of infected individuals, across infection and recovery periods. Results: Over the course of infection, we found that the sifaka GMB responds with decreased microbial diversity and increased community dissimilarity. Compared to the GMB of unaffected individuals, as well as during pre-infection and recovery periods, the GMB during active infection was enriched for microbial taxa associated with dysbiosis and rapid transit time. Time to recovery was inversely related to age, with young animals being slowest to recover GMB diversity and full community membership. Antimicrobial treatment during infection caused a significant depletion in GMB diversity. Conclusions: Although individual sifakas show unique trajectories of microbial loss and recolonization in response to infection, recovering sifakas exhibit remarkably consistent patterns, similar to initial community assembly of the GMB in infants. This observation, in particular, provides biological insight into the rules by which the GMB recovers from the disease state. Fecal transfaunation may prove effective in restoring a healthy GMB in animals with specialized diets.
McKenney, EA; Greene, LK; Drea, CM; Yoder, AD
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