Characterization of Oral Microbiota in Cats: Novel Insights on the Potential Role of Fungi in Feline Chronic Gingivostomatitis

Pathogens. 2021 Jul 17;10(7):904. doi: 10.3390/pathogens10070904.


Previous studies have suggested the involvement of viral and bacterial components in the initiation and progression of feline chronic gingivostomatitis (FCGS), but the role of fungi remains entirely unknown. This pilot study aimed to investigate the bacteriome and mycobiome in feline oral health and disease. Physical exams, including oral health assessment, of privately owned, clinically healthy (CH) cats (n = 14) and cats affected by FCGS (n = 14) were performed. Using a sterile swab, oral tissue surfaces of CH and FCGS cats were sampled and submitted for 16S rRNA and ITS-2 next-generation DNA sequencing. A high number of fungal species (n = 186) was detected, with Malassezia restricta, Malassezia arunalokei, Cladosporium penidielloides/salinae, and Aspergillaceae sp. being significantly enriched in FCGS samples, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae in CH samples. The bacteriome was significantly distinct between groups, and significant inter-kingdom interactions were documented. Bergeyella zoohelcum was identified as a potential biomarker of a healthy feline oral microbiome. These data suggest that fungi might play a role in the etiology and pathogenesis of FCGS, and that oral health should not simply be regarded as the absence of microbial infections. Instead, it may be viewed as the biological interactions between bacterial and fungal populations that coexist to preserve a complex equilibrium in the microenvironment of the mouth. Additional investigations are needed to improve our understanding of the feline oral ecosystem and the potential interactions between viruses, bacteria, and fungi in FCGS.

Keywords: 16S rRNA; feline stomatitis; fungal ITS; microbiome; mycobiota; next-generation DNA sequencing; oral microbiota.