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10 June 2022 Using Surface Washing to Remove the Environmental Component from Flea Microbiome Analysis
Ramya Sridhar, Katharina Dittmar, Heather M. Williams
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Microbial metabarcoding is a common method to study the biology of blood-feeding arthropods and identify patterns of potential pathogen transmission. Before DNA extraction, specimens are often surface washed to remove environmental contaminants. While surface washing is common, its effects on microbial diversity remain unclear. We characterized the microbiome of the flea species Ceratophyllus idius, an avian ectoparasite, and a potential vector of pathogens, using high-throughput 16S rRNA sequencing. Half of the nests from which fleas were collected were subjected to an environmental manipulation in which nesting materials were periodically replaced. In a crossed study design we surface washed half of the flea samples from each environmental condition to produce 4 experimental conditions. Environmental manipulations resulted in significant differences in the diversity and structure of the flea microbiome, but these differences were unapparent when specimens were surface washed. Furthermore, differential abundance testing of the experimental groups revealed that surface washing predominantly affected the abundance of bacterial groups that are characterized as environmental contaminants. These findings suggest that environmental changes primarily affect the surface microbiome of arthropods and that surface washing is a useful tool to reduce the footprint of the external microbiome on analysis.

© American Society of Parasitologists 2022
Ramya Sridhar, Katharina Dittmar, and Heather M. Williams "Using Surface Washing to Remove the Environmental Component from Flea Microbiome Analysis," Journal of Parasitology 108(3), 245-253, (10 June 2022).
Published: 10 June 2022
16S rRNA
bird flea
Ceratophyllus idius
Environmental bacteria
Purple Martin
Surface washing
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