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Avian Malaria Modulate Gut Microbiome in Canaries

@ Alejandro Cabezas-Cruz
Parasites are known to influence various aspects of their host biology. Recent evidence shows that host microbiome modulation by infection is one of the strategies of vector-borne parasites to affect host immunity and physiology. Although avian malaria is a common disease affecting wild birds, very little information is available about its impact on the gut microbiome of wild birds. This is the first study testing wild bird gut microbiome modulation after experimental infection with avian malaria parasite.

In this study, we infected birds with a prominent avian malaria parasite, Plasmodium homocircumflexum, and tested changes in the bird host gut microbiome from acute and chronic stages of infection to the beginning of the latent stage. Faecal samples were collected from infected and control birds at different time points and after extraction of DNA and 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing, we characterized and compared the microbial communities. The results showed that P. homocircumflexum infection did not have a significant impact on the bacterial diversity. However, comparisons of taxonomic and predicted functional profiling of microbiome in infected and control birds revealed an emergence of infection-specific taxa and pathways at the later stages of infection. The differential abundance analysis showed differences in bacteria microbiota abundance in infected and control birds at specific time points of the experiment. Presented results show for the first time that experimental infection with P. homocircumflexum modulates the gut microbiome of birds, causing deviation from normal development with potential consequences for host health.

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See also


Aželytė J, Wu-Chuang A, Maître A, Žiegytė R, Mateos-Hernandez L, Obregon D, Palinauskas V, Cabezas-Cruz A. 2023. Avian malaria parasites modulate gut microbiome assembly in canaries. Microorganisms. 11(3), 563.