BackgroundMicroorganisms have intimate functional relationships with invertebrate and vertebrate taxa, with the potential to drastically impact health outcomes. Perturbations that affect microbial communities residing on animals can lead to dysbiosis, a change in the functional relationship, often associated with disease. Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), a fungal pathogen of amphibians, has been responsible for catastrophic amphibian population declines around the globe. Amphibians harbor a diverse cutaneous microbiome, including some members which are known to be antagonistic to Bd (anti-Bd). Anti-Bd microorganisms facilitate the ability of some frog populations to persist in the presence of Bd, where other populations that lack anti-Bd microorganisms have declined. Research suggests disease-antagonistic properties of the microbiome may be a function of microbial community interactions, rather than individual bacterial species. Conservation efforts have identified amphibian-associated bacteria that exhibit anti-fungal properties for use as 'probiotics' on susceptible amphibian populations. Probiotic application, usually with a single bacterial species, may benefit from a greater understanding of amphibian species-specific microbiome responses to disturbances (e.g. dysbiosis vs. recovery). We assessed microbiome responses to two microbial disturbance events over multiple time points.
ResultsExposing Lithobates sphenocephalus (southern leopard frog) adults to the biopesticidal bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis, followed by exposure to the fungal pathogen Bd, did not have long term impacts on the microbiome. After initial shifts, microbial communities recovered and returned to a state that resembled pre-disturbance.
ConclusionsOur results indicate microbial communities on L. sphenocephalus are robust and resistant to permanent shifts from some disturbances. This resiliency of microbial communities may explain why L. sphenocephalus is not experiencing the population declines from Bd that impacts many other species. Conservation efforts may benefit from studies outlining amphibian species-specific microbiome responses to disturbances (e.g. dysbiosis vs. recovery). If microbial communities on a threatened amphibian species are unlikely to recover following a disturbance, additional measures may be implemented to ameliorate the impacts of physical and chemical stressors on host-associated microbial communities.
SUBMITTER: Weeks DM