Exposure to Parasitic Protists and Helminths Changes the Intestinal Community Structure of Bacterial Communities in a Cohort of Mother-Child Binomials from a Semirural Setting in Mexico

mSphere. 2021 Aug 25;6(4):e0008321. doi: 10.1128/mSphere.00083-21. Epub 2021 Aug 18.


An estimated 3.5 billion people are colonized by intestinal parasites worldwide. Intestinal parasitic eukaryotes interact not only with the host but also with the intestinal microbiota. In this work, we studied the relationship between the presence of multiple enteric parasites and the community structures of gut bacteria and eukaryotes in an asymptomatic mother-child cohort from a semirural community in Mexico. Fecal samples were collected from 46 mothers and their respective children, with ages ranging from 2 to 20 months. Mothers and infants were found to be multiparasitized by Blastocystis hominis, Entamoeba dispar, Endolimax nana, Chilomastix mesnili, Iodamoeba butshlii, Entamoeba coli, Hymenolepis nana, and Ascaris lumbricoides. Sequencing of bacterial 16S rRNA and eukaryotic 18S rRNA genes showed a significant effect of parasite exposure on bacterial beta-diversity, which explained between 5.2% and 15.0% of the variation of the bacterial community structure in the cohort. Additionally, exposure to parasites was associated with significant changes in the relative abundances of multiple bacterial taxa, characterized by an increase in Clostridiales and decreases in Actinobacteria and Bacteroidales. Parasite exposure was not associated with changes in intestinal eukaryote relative abundances. However, we found several significant positive correlations between intestinal bacteria and eukaryotes, including Oscillospira with Entamoeba coli and Prevotella stercorea with Entamoeba hartmanni, as well as the co-occurrence of the fungus Candida with Bacteroides and Actinomyces, Bifidobacterium, and Prevotella copri and the fungus Pichia with Oscillospira. The parasitic exposure-associated changes in the bacterial community structure suggest effects on microbial metabolic routes, host nutrient uptake abilities, and intestinal immunity regulation in host-parasite interactions. IMPORTANCE The impact of intestinal eukaryotes on the prokaryotic microbiome composition of asymptomatic carriers has not been extensively explored, especially in infants and mothers with multiple parasitic infections. In this work, we studied the relationship between protist and helminth parasite colonization and the intestinal microbiota structure in an asymptomatic population of mother-child binomials from a semirural community in Mexico. We found that the presence of parasitic eukaryotes correlated with changes in the bacterial gut community structure in the intestinal microbiota in an age-dependent way. Parasitic infection was associated with an increase in the relative abundance of the class Clostridia and decreases of Actinobacteria and Bacteroidia. Parasitic infection was not associated with changes in the eukaryote community structure. However, we observed strong positive correlations between bacterial and other eukaryote taxa, identifying novel relationships between prokaryotes and fungi reflecting interkingdom interactions within the human intestine.

Keywords: 16S sequencing; 18S sequencing; Mexico; bacteria; children; eukaryotes; helminths; microbiota; parasites; protists.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Feces / parasitology*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / genetics*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology
  • Helminths / genetics
  • Helminths / physiology*
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intestinal Diseases, Parasitic / epidemiology*
  • Mexico / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Statistical
  • Mothers
  • Parasites / classification
  • Parasites / genetics
  • Parasites / physiology*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S

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