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The pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis disturbs the frog skin microbiome during a natural epidemic and experimental infection.


ABSTRACT: Symbiotic microbial communities may interact with infectious pathogens sharing a common host. The microbiome may limit pathogen infection or, conversely, an invading pathogen can disturb the microbiome. Documentation of such relationships during naturally occurring disease outbreaks is rare, and identifying causal links from field observations is difficult. This study documented the effects of an amphibian skin pathogen of global conservation concern [the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd)] on the skin-associated bacterial microbiome of the endangered frog, Rana sierrae, using a combination of population surveys and laboratory experiments. We examined covariation of pathogen infection and bacterial microbiome composition in wild frogs, demonstrating a strong and consistent correlation between Bd infection load and bacterial community composition in multiple R. sierrae populations. Despite the correlation between Bd infection load and bacterial community composition, we observed 100% mortality of postmetamorphic frogs during a Bd epizootic, suggesting that the relationship between Bd and bacterial communities was not linked to variation in resistance to mortal disease and that Bd infection altered bacterial communities. In a controlled experiment, Bd infection significantly altered the R. sierrae microbiome, demonstrating a causal relationship. The response of microbial communities to Bd infection was remarkably consistent: Several bacterial taxa showed the same response to Bd infection across multiple field populations and the laboratory experiment, indicating a somewhat predictable interaction between Bd and the microbiome. The laboratory experiment demonstrates that Bd infection causes changes to amphibian skin bacterial communities, whereas the laboratory and field results together strongly support Bd disturbance as a driver of bacterial community change during natural disease dynamics.

SUBMITTER: Jani AJ 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC4250152 | BioStudies | 2014-01-01

SECONDARY ACCESSION(S): SRR1598941

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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