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Dysbiosis associated with acute helminth infections in herbivorous youngstock: observations and implications

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Laura E Peachey
  • Cecilia Castro
  • Rebecca A Molena
  • Timothy P Jenkins
  • Julian L Griffin
  • Cinzia Cantacessi
Original languageEnglish
Article number11121
Number of pages16
JournalScientific Reports
DateAccepted/In press - 11 Jul 2019
DatePublished (current) - 31 Jul 2019


A plethora of data points towards a role of the gastrointestinal (GI) microbiota of neonatal and young vertebrates in supporting the development and regulation of the host immune system. However, knowledge of the impact that infections by GI helminths exert on the developing microbiota of juvenile hosts is, thus far, limited. This study investigates, for the first time, the associations between acute infections by GI helminths and the faecal microbial and metabolic profiles of a cohort of equine youngstock, prior to and following treatment with parasiticides (ivermectin). We observed that high versus low parasite burdens (measured via parasite egg counts in faecal samples) were associated with specific compositional alterations of the developing microbiome; in particular, the faecal microbiota of animals with heavy worm infection burdens was characterised by lower microbial richness, and alterations to the relative abundances of bacterial taxa with immune-modulatory functions. Amino acids and glucose were increased in faecal samples from the same cohort, which indicated the likely occurrence of intestinal malabsorption. These data support the hypothesis that GI helminth infections in young livestock are associated with significant alterations to the GI microbiota, which may impact on both metabolism and development of acquired immunity. This knowledge will direct future studies aimed to identify the long-term impact of infection-induced alterations of the GI microbiota in young livestock.

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