Bacterial topography of the upper and lower respiratory tract in pigs

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BackgroundUnderstanding the complex structures and interactions of the bacterial communities inhabiting the upper (URT) and lower (LRT) respiratory tract of pigs is at an early stage. The objective of this study was to characterize the bacterial topography of three URT (nostrils, choana, and tonsils) and LRT (proximal trachea, left caudal lobe and secondary bronchi) sites in pigs. Thirty-six post-mortem samples from six pigs were analysed by 16S rRNA gene quantification and sequencing, and the microbiota in nostrils and trachea was additionally profiled by shotgun sequencing.ResultsThe bacterial composition obtained by the two methods was congruent, although metagenomics recovered only a fraction of the diversity (32 metagenome-assembled genomes) due to the high proportion (85-98%) of host DNA. The highest abundance of 16S rRNA copies was observed in nostrils, followed by tonsils, trachea, bronchi, choana and lung. Bacterial richness and diversity were lower in the LRT compared to the URT. Overall, Firmicutes and Proteobacteria were identified as predominant taxa in all sample types. Glasserella (15.7%), Streptococcus (14.6%) and Clostridium (10.1%) were the most abundant genera but differences in microbiota composition were observed between the two tracts as well as between sampling sites within the same tract. Clear-cut differences were observed between nasal and tonsillar microbiomes (R-values 0.85-0.93), whereas bacterial communities inhabiting trachea and lung were similar (R-values 0.10-0.17). Moraxella and Streptococcus were more common in bronchial mucosal scraping than in lavage, probably because of mucosal adherence. The bacterial microbiota of the choana was less diverse than that of the nostrils and similar to the tracheal microbiota (R-value 0.24), suggesting that the posterior nasal cavity serves as the primary source of bacteria for the LRT.ConclusionWe provide new knowledge on microbiota composition and species abundance in distinct ecological niches of the pig respiratory tract. Our results shed light on the distribution of opportunistic bacterial pathogens across the respiratory tract and support the hypothesis that bacteria present in the lungs originate from the posterior nasal cavity. Due to the high abundance of host DNA, high-resolution profiling of the pig respiratory microbiota by shotgun sequencing requires methods for host DNA depletion.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5
JournalBMC Animal Microbiome
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2023

    Research areas

  • Pig, Metagenomics, Respiratory tract, MICROBIOME

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