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Bacteriophage versus antibiotic therapy on gut bacterial communities of juvenile green turtle

Md. Shamim Ahasan, Robert Kinobe, Lisa Elliott, Leigh Owens, Jenni Scott, Jacqueline Picard, Roger Huerlimann, Ellen Ariel

Bacteriophage versus antibiotic therapy on gut bacterial communities of juvenile green turtle, Chelonia mydas

Environmental Microbiology (2019), First published: 29 April 2019 https://doi.org/10.1111/1462-2920.14644

Summary

Green turtles are endangered marine herbivorous hindgut fermenters that contribute to a variety of marine ecosystems. Debilitated turtles are often rehabilitated in turtle hospitals. Since accurate diagnosis of disease is difficult, broad‐spectrum antibiotics are routinely used as a general treatment, potentially causing collateral damage to the gut microbiome of the patient. Here, we evaluated the concept of the application of bacteriophage (phages) to eliminate targeted intestinal bacteria as an alternative to a broad‐spectrum antibiotic (enrofloxacin) in clinically healthy, captive green turtles. Additionally, the impact of a broad‐spectrum antibiotic (enrofloxacin) and phage therapy on the gut bacterial communities of green turtles was evaluated. Gut bacterial communities in faecal samples were analysed by sequencing the V1‐V3 regions of the bacterial 16S rRNA. Bacteria‐specific phage cocktails significantly (P < 0.05) reduced targeted Acinetobacter in phage‐treated turtles during the therapy. Compared to control, no significant difference was observed in the bacterial diversity and compositions in phage‐treated turtles. In contrast, bacterial diversity was significantly (P < 0.05) reduced in antibiotic‐treated turtles at day 15 and throughout the trial. The alteration in the bacterial microbiota of antibiotic‐treated turtles was largely due to an increase in abundance of Gram‐positive Firmicutes and a concurrent decrease in Gram‐negative Bacteroidetes, Proteobacteria and Verrucomicrobia. Additionally, we observed the relative abundance of several bacteria at lower taxonomic level was much less affected by phages than by antibiotics. These data offer the proof of concept of phage therapy to manipulate transient as well as indigenous bacterial flora in gut‐related dysbiosis of turtles.