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Gut Microbes. 2012 Jul-Aug;3(4):322-31. Epub 2012 May 10.

Bacterial symbioses of the medicinal leech Hirudo verbana.

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Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA.


Gastrointestinal microbiomes play important roles in the health and nutrition of animals and humans. The medicinal leech, Hirudo verbana, serves as a powerful model for the study of microbial symbioses of the gut, due to its naturally limited microbiome compared with other popular models, the ability to cultivate the most abundant microbes, and genetically manipulate one of them, Aeromonas veronii. This review covers the relevance and application of leeches in modern medicine as well as recent discoveries detailing the nature of the gut microbiome. Additionally, the dual life-style of A. veronii allows one to do direct comparisons between colonization factors for beneficial and pathogenic associations, and relevant findings are detailed with respect to their role within the host and pathogenicity to other animals.

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