Inter-Species Microbial Sharing in Rural Madagascar: A Study of Environmental Influences on the Skin Microbiome
The skin is home to trillions of microbes, many of which are recently implicated in immune system regulation and various health conditions (33). The skin is continuously exposed to the outside environment, inviting microbial transfer between human skin and the people, animals, and surfaces with which an individual comes into contact. Thus, the aim of this study is to assess how different environmental exposures influence skin microbe communities, as this can strengthen our understanding of how microbial variation relates to health outcomes. This study investigated the skin microbial communities of humans and domesticated cattle living in rural Madagascar. The V3 region of the 16S rRNA gene was sequenced from samples of zebu (the domesticated cattle of Madagascar), zebu owners, and non-zebu owners. Overall, human armpits were the least diverse sample site, while ankles were the most diverse. The diversity of zebu samples was significantly different from armpits, irrespective of zebu ownership (one-way ANOVA and Tukey’s HSD, p<0.05). However, zebu owner samples (from the armpit, ankle forearm, and hand) were more similar to other zebu owner samples than they were to zebu, yet no more similar to other zebu owner samples than they were to non-zebu owner samples (unweighted UniFrac distances, p<0.05). These data suggest a lack of a microbial signature shared by zebu owners and zebu, though further taxonomic analysis is required to explain the role of additional environmental variables in dictating the microbial communities of various samples sites. Understanding the magnitude and directionality of microbial sharing has implications for a breadth of microbe-related health outcomes, with the potential to explain mosquito host preference and mitigate the threats of vector-borne diseases.
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