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Microbiome analysis as a platform R&D tool for parasitic nematode disease management


The relationship between bacterial communities and their host is being extensively investigated for the potential to improve the host’s health. Little is known about the interplay between the microbiota of parasites and the health of the infected host. Using nematode co-infection of lambs as a proof-of-concept model, the aim of this study was to characterise the microbiomes of nematodes and that of their host, enabling identification of candidate nematode-specific microbiota member(s) that could be exploited as drug development tools or for targeted therapy. Deep sequencing techniques were used to elucidate the microbiomes of different life stages of two parasitic nematodes of ruminants, Haemonchus contortus and Teladorsagia circumcincta, as well as that of the co-infected ovine hosts, pre- and post infection. Bioinformatic analyses demonstrated significant differences between the composition of the nematode and ovine microbiomes. The two nematode species also differed significantly. The data indicated a shift in the constitution of the larval nematode microbiome after exposure to the ovine microbiome, and in the ovine intestinal microbial community over time as a result of helminth co-infection. Several bacterial species were identified in nematodes that were absent from their surrounding abomasal environment, the most significant of which included Escherichia coli/Shigella. The ability to purposefully infect nematode species with engineered E. coli was demonstrated in vitro, validating the concept of using this bacterium as a nematode-specific drug development tool and/or drug delivery vehicle. To our knowledge, this is the first description of the concept of exploiting a parasite’s microbiome for drug development and treatment purposes.

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The authors acknowledge the provision of in vitro larval images with kind permission from Prof Antony Page, University of Glasgow. MT acknowledges relevant support from Science Foundation Ireland (15/CDA/3630 and 12/RC/2273). We also gratefully acknowledge funding from The Scottish Government’s Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services Division (RESAS). We are grateful to the Bioservices Division, Moredun Research Institute, for expert care and assistance with the animals.

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Correspondence to Mark Tangney or Dave J. Bartley.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All experimental procedures described here were approved by the Moredun Research Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body and were conducted under the legislation of a UK Home Office License (reference P95890EC1) in accordance with the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act of 1986.

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