Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MICROCHANGE (Emergence of pathogenicity in the sea: altered host-microbe interactions in the face of environmental change)
Berichtszeitraum: 2015-08-01 bis 2017-07-31
Animals and plants form a distinct habitat for microbial communities (microbiomes), and these microbial associations are integral to life. Host-associated communities colonize every accessible host tissue, have an impact on host function and contribute to host fitness and health. There is accumulating evidence from studies that show links between diseases and the diversity of an organism’s microbiome. Disturbing the balance between the host and its colonizing microbiota appears to foster diseases. Vibrios are important bacterial pathogens for animals reared in aquaculture but are at the same time symbionts of several vertebrate and invertebrate hosts, such as fish, sea anemones, sponges, molluscs, and zooplankton.
The objective of the project was to gain a better understanding of how environmental stress affects the assembly of host-associated microbial communities and how these host-associated communities influence disease emergence.
As microbiomes consist of many interacting species one also has to decipher the types of interactions at play to understand the ecology of microbiomes and how they respond to stress. Here I studied the interactions between two bacterial strains and their fitness in host and host-free environments. Findings include that microbial fitness is key, as it will yield insights into the role that microbes played not only in the evolution of eukaryotes, but also into the ecology and evolution of host-microbe associations in general and the evolution of pathogen emergence.
Results from this project will help to close the knowledge gap from microbiome composition to ecological interactions within these communities and help to untangle how environmental change drives host-microbiome dynamics and disease emergence. For conservation, aquaculture, human and animal health alike, understanding what threatens these interactions is essential.
Dissemination of research findings was done through scientific publications (5 to this point) and presentations at conferences (total of 9).
Right on our doorstep we can observe links between environmental changes, including temperature increase, and enhanced disease expression. Abnormally high temperatures in the Baltic Sea area coincide with unusually large numbers of Vibrio infections. Understanding these links falls within the EuroMarine vision Blue Science for Blue Growth where complementing activities have been funded.
Results from my current and also previous research support the notion that the microbiome also has significant implications for conservation biology. Concepts and methods of microbiome research could therefore be applied to meet conservation challenges such as captive breeding, inbreeding, reintroduction, invasion of non-native species, habitat fragmentation, and change in climate. Successful management of endangered species may well require managing their microbiomes.
The EU Biodiversity Strategy aims to protect the natural capital essentials to our health and our economy by halting the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU. Several strategies have been developed including species protection. Managing micorobiomes/microbiome engineering my therefore aid in protecting animals (and plants) facing certain threats in Europe.