Background: The human intestine and its microbiota is the most common infection site for soil-transmitted helminths (STHs), which affect the well-being of ~ 1.5 billion people worldwide. The complex cross-kingdom interactions are not well understood.
Results: A cross-sectional analysis identified conserved microbial signatures positively or negatively associated with STH infections across Liberia and Indonesia, and longitudinal samples analysis from a double-blind randomized trial showed that the gut microbiota responds to deworming but does not transition closer to the uninfected state. The microbiomes of individuals able to self-clear the infection had more alike microbiome assemblages compared to individuals who remained infected. One bacterial taxon (Lachnospiracae) was negatively associated with infection in both countries, and 12 bacterial taxa were significantly associated with STH infection in both countries, including Olsenella (associated with reduced gut inflammation), which also significantly reduced in abundance following clearance of infection. Microbial community gene abundances were also affected by deworming. Functional categories identified as associated with STH infection included arachidonic acid metabolism; arachidonic acid is the precursor for pro-inflammatory leukotrienes that threaten helminth survival, and our findings suggest that some modulation of arachidonic acid activity in the STH-infected gut may occur through the increase of arachidonic acid metabolizing bacteria.
Conclusions: For the first time, we identify specific members of the gut microbiome that discriminate between moderately/heavily STH-infected and non-infected states across very diverse geographical regions using two different statistical methods. We also identify microbiome-encoded biological functions associated with the STH infections, which are associated potentially with STH survival strategies, and changes in the host environment. These results provide a novel insight of the cross-kingdom interactions in the human gut ecosystem by unlocking the microbiome assemblages at taxonomic, genetic, and functional levels so that advances towards key mechanistic studies can be made.
Keywords: 16S rRNA gene; Helminth; Intestine; Metagenome; Microbiota; Nematode; Parasite.