Guts within guts: the microbiome of the intestinal helminth parasite Ascaris suum is derived but distinct from its host


  • A. Midha
  • V.H. Jarquín-Díaz
  • F. Ebner
  • U. Löber
  • R. Hayani
  • A. Kundik
  • A. Cardilli
  • E. Heitlinger
  • S.K. Forslund
  • S. Hartmann


  • Microbiome


  • Microbiome 10 (1): 229


  • BACKGROUND: Intestinal helminths are extremely prevalent among humans and animals. In particular, intestinal roundworms affect more than 1 billion people around the globe and are a major issue in animal husbandry. These pathogens live in intimate contact with the host gut microbiota and harbor bacteria within their own intestines. Knowledge of the bacterial host microbiome at the site of infection is limited, and data on the parasite microbiome is, to the best of our knowledge, non-existent. RESULTS: The intestinal microbiome of the natural parasite and zoonotic macropathogen, Ascaris suum was analyzed in contrast to the diversity and composition of the infected host gut. 16S sequencing of the parasite intestine and host intestinal compartments showed that the parasite gut has a significantly less diverse microbiome than its host, and the host gut exhibits a reduced microbiome diversity at the site of parasite infection in the jejunum. While the host's microbiome composition at the site of infection significantly determines the microbiome composition of its parasite, microbial signatures differentiate the nematodes from their hosts as the Ascaris intestine supports the growth of microbes that are otherwise under-represented in the host gut. CONCLUSION: Our data clearly indicate that a nematode infection reduces the microbiome diversity of the host gut, and that the nematode gut represents a selective bacterial niche harboring bacteria that are derived but distinct from the host gut.