2021 journal article
Dysbiosis of fecal microbiota in cats with naturally occurring and experimentally induced Tritrichomonas foetus infection
PLOS ONE, 16(2).
The protozoal pathogen Tritrichomonas foetus infects the colon of domestic cats and is a major cause of chronic colitis and diarrhea. Treatment failure is common, but antibiotics may improve clinical signs in a subset of cats, leading researchers to question involvement of the colonic microbiota in disease pathogenesis. Studies performed in women with venereal Trichomonas vaginalis infections have revealed that dysbiosis of host microbiota contributes to pathogenicity with similar findings also found in mice with intestinal Tritrichomonas musculis The aim of this study was to characterize differences in the fecal microbiota of cats with and without naturally occurring T. foetus infection and in a group of kittens prior to and after experimentally induced infection. Archived fecal DNA from cats undergoing testing for T. foetus infection (n = 89) and experimentally infected kittens (n = 4; at pre-, 2 weeks, and 9 weeks post-infection) were analyzed by sequencing of 16S rRNA genes. Amongst the naturally infected population, the genera Megamonas and Helicobacter were significantly increased in prevalence and abundance in cats testing positive for T. foetus infection. In the group of four experimentally infected kittens, fecal samples post-infection had significantly lower abundance of genus Dialister and Megamonas and greater abundance of the class Betaproteobacteria and family Succinivibrionaceae. We hypothesize that T. foetus promotes dysbiosis by competition for fermentable substrates used by these bacteria and that metabolic byproducts may contribute to the pathogenesis of colonic inflammation and diarrhea. Future studies are warranted for the measurement of fecal concentrations of microbial and protozoal metabolites in cats with T. foetus infection for the identification of potential therapeutic targets.