Fungal communities in the Field Vole (Microtus agrestis) and their possible impact on host immunology and disease risk

Mon9  Apr02:45pm(15 mins)
Where:
Stream 4 - Edward Llwyd 0.01

Authors

A Thomason3; R Antwis3; M Begon1; J Bradley2; I Friberg3; S Paterson1; J Jackson3
1 University of Liverpool, UK;  2 University of Nottingham, UK;  3 University of Salford, UK

Discussion

Variability in the way individuals in a population respond to infection can influence the wider dynamics of infectious disease. For example, an individual host’s characteristics may lead it to be a “super-spreader”, responsible for a large amount of transmission. Each host balances investing energy into immunity and investing energy into other processes that increase fitness, such as foraging or mating. An immune strategy of completely eradicating an infection may not be the most beneficial for host fitness, in a wild situation where there is finite energy. Due to this balance, as well as other genetic, biological and environmental factors, there are variations in the way individuals respond to an infection.

Laboratory studies into immunity, although critical for our understanding of immunology, are not reflective of wild situations mainly due to the stressor free conditions the animals are kept in. Therefore, with newly developed techniques, there has been an upwards trend in researching immunology in the natural environment, or ‘eco-immunology’.

Current research into eco-immunology has brought to light that the amount of immunological variation between individuals is greater than previously thought. What drives this variation is not fully understood, especially what components of the environment are responsible for determining the nature of immune investment. Recently bacterial communities (microbiota) have been identified as playing a key part in immune modulation. However, bacteria are only part of an extended gut ecosystem, which also contains a range of eukaryotes (fungi, protozoa, helminths) that might influence the outcome of interactions with the immune system.

The present study provides a preliminary assessment of the importance of the fungal component of the gut microbiota. Communities of fungi in faeces of individual Microtus agrestis (Field Vole) have been characterised using next generation sequencing (MiSEQ) and in the future, will be analysed in conjunction with data on host immune expression (measured through qPCR analysis). The purpose is to understand how fungal communities may influence a host individual’s immune expression, and how this impacts on other host factors and infectious disease susceptibility.

Schedule

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