Genome-resolving metagenomics reveals wild western capercaillies (Tetrao urogallus) as avian hosts for antibiotic-resistance bacteria and their interactions with the gut-virome community

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The gut microbiome is a critical component of avian health, influencing nutrient uptake and immune functions. While the gut microbiomes of agriculturally important birds have been studied, the microbiomes of wild birds still need to be explored. Filling this knowledge gap could have implications for the microbial rewilding of captive birds and managing avian hosts for antibiotic-resistant bacteria (ARB). Using genome-resolved metagenomics, we recovered 112 metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) from the faeces of wild and captive western capercaillies (Tetrao urogallus) (n = 8). Comparisons of bacterial diversity between the wild and captive capercaillies suggest that the reduced diversity in the captive individual could be due to differences in diet. This was further substantiated through the analyses of 517,657 clusters of orthologous groups (COGs), which revealed that gene functions related to amino acids and carbohydrate metabolisms were more abundant in wild capercaillies. Metagenomics mining of resistome identified 751 antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs), of which 40.7 % were specific to wild capercaillies suggesting that capercaillies could be potential reservoirs for hosting ARG-associated bacteria. Additionally, the core resistome shared between wild and captive capercaillies indicates that birds can acquire these ARG-associated bacteria naturally from the environment (43.1 % of ARGs). The association of 26 MAGs with 120 ARGs and 378 virus operational taxonomic units (vOTUs) also suggests a possible interplay between these elements, where putative phages could have roles in modulating the gut microbiota of avian hosts. These findings can have important implications for conservation and human health, such as avian gut microbiota rewilding, identifying the emerging threats or opportunities due to phage-microbe interactions, and monitoring the potential spread of ARG-associated bacteria from wild avian populations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number127372
JournalMicrobiological Research
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

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© 2023 The Authors

    Research areas

  • Antimicrobial resistance, Host-microbe interactions, Metagenomics, Viromics, Wild avian

ID: 344802003