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PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2018 Jul 5;12(7):e0006499. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0006499. eCollection 2018 Jul.

The spleen microbiota of small wild mammals reveals distinct patterns with tick-borne bacteria.

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Department of Immunology and Pathogen Biology, Tongji University School of Medicine, Shanghai, China.
Departement of Biotechnology, College of Life Sciences and Technology, Tongji University, Shanghai, China.
The State Key Laboratory of Veterinary Etiological Biology, Lanzhou Veterinary Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Gansu, China.



Wild mammals serve as reservoirs for a variety of microbes and play an important role in the enzootic cycles of these microbes. Some of them are vector-borne bacteria in the genera Anaplasma, Ehrlichia and Rickettsia of the order Rickettsiales, which can cause febrile illnesses in human beings as well as animals. Anaplasma spp., Ehrlichia spp. and many spotted fever group (SFG) Rickettsia spp. are transmitted to mammalian hosts by tick vectors during blood meals. As a powerful sequencing method, the next generation sequencing can reveal the complexity of bacterial communities in humans and animals. Compared with limited studies on blood microbiota, however, much fewer studies have been carried out on spleen microbiota, which is very scarce in wild mammals. Chongming Island is the third biggest island in China. It was unclear whether there were any vector-borne bacteria in Chongming Island. In the present study, we explored the bacterial microbiota in the spleens of wild mice and shrews from the rural areas of Chongming Island and investigated the prevalence of vector-borne bacteria.


Genomic DNAs were extracted from the spleen samples of 35 mice and shrews. The 16S rDNA V3-V4 regions of the DNA extracts were amplified by PCR and subjected to the 16S rDNA-targeted metagenomic sequencing on an Illumina MiSeq platform. All the 35 spleen samples obtained data with sufficient coverage (99.7-99.9%) for analysis. More than 1,300,000 sequences were obtained after quality control and classified into a total of 1,967 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) clustered at 97% similarity. The two most abundant bacterial phyla were Firmicutes and Proteobacteria according to the analysis of rarefied sequences. Among the bacterial communities detected in this study, Anaplasma, Rickettsia and Coxiella were adjacently clustered by hierarchical analysis. Significant differences in many bacterial features between Anaplasma-positive and Anaplasma-negative samples were identified by LEfSe analysis and Wilcoxon rank-sum test, suggesting that the Anaplasma-infection of small wild mammals was associated with a specific pattern of spleen microbiota.


Our study has comprehensively characterized the complex bacterial profiles in the spleens of wild mice and shrews from Chongming Island, Shanghai city. This work has revealed distinct spleen bacterial communities associated with tick-borne bacteria in wild animals. The detection of tick-borne bacteria highlights the risk of contracting pathogens with public health importance upon tick-exposure in the studied areas.

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