Helminth burden and ecological factors associated with alterations in wild host gastrointestinal microbiota

Lindsay K. Newbold, Sarah J. Burthe, Anna E. Oliver, Hyun S. Gweon, Christopher J. Barnes, Francis Daunt, Christopher J. Van Der Gast*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Infection by gastrointestinal helminths of humans, livestock and wild animals is common, but the impact of such endoparasites on wild hosts and their gut microbiota represents an important overlooked component of population dynamics. Wild host gut microbiota and endoparasites occupy the same physical niche spaces with both affecting host nutrition and health. However, associations between the two are poorly understood. Here we used the commonly parasitized European shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) as a model wild host. Forty live adults from the same colony were sampled. Endoscopy was employed to quantify helminth infection in situ. Microbiota from the significantly distinct proventriculus (site of infection), cloacal and faecal gastrointestinal tract microbiomes were characterised using 16S rRNA gene-targeted high-throughput sequencing. We found increasingly strong associations between helminth infection and microbiota composition progressing away from the site of infection, observing a pronounced dysbiosis in microbiota when samples were partitioned into high- and low-burden groups. We posit this dysbiosis is predominately explained by helminths inducing an anti-inflammatory environment in the proventriculus, diverting host immune responses away from themselves. This study, within live wild animals, provides a vital foundation to better understand the mechanisms that underpin the three-way relationship between helminths, microbiota and hosts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)663-675
Number of pages13
JournalThe ISME Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes

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