Background: Sarcoptic mange is a highly contagious skin disease caused by the ectoparasitic mite Sarcoptes scabiei. Although it afflicts over 100 mammal species worldwide, sarcoptic mange remains a disease obscured by variability at the individual, population and species levels. Amid this variability, it is critical to identify consistent drivers of morbidity, particularly at the skin barrier.
Methods: Using culture-independent next generation sequencing, we characterized the skin microbiome of three species of North American canids: coyotes (Canis latrans), red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus). We compared alpha and beta diversity between mange-infected and uninfected canids using the Kruskal-Wallis test and multivariate analysis of variance with permutation. We used analysis of composition of microbes and gneiss balances to perform differential abundance testing between infection groups.
Results: We found remarkably consistent signatures of microbial dysbiosis associated with mange infection. Across genera, mange-infected canids exhibited reduced microbial diversity, altered community composition and increased abundance of opportunistic pathogens. The primary bacteria comprising secondary infections were Staphylococcus pseudintermedius, previously associated with canid ear and skin infections, and Corynebacterium spp., previously found among the gut flora of S. scabiei mites and hematophagous arthropods.
Conclusions: This evidence suggests that sarcoptic mange infection consistently alters the canid skin microbiome and facilitates secondary bacterial infection, as seen in humans and other mammals infected with S. scabiei mites. These results provide valuable insights into the pathogenesis of mange at the skin barrier of North American canids and can inspire novel treatment strategies. By adopting a "One Health" framework that considers mites, microbes and the potential for interspecies transmission, we can better elucidate the patterns and processes underlying this ubiquitous and enigmatic disease.
Keywords: Corynebacterium; Coyotes; Dysbiosis; Gray foxes; Microbiome; Red foxes; Sarcoptes scabiei; Sarcoptic mange; Secondary bacterial infection; Staphylococcus pseudintermedius.