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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Ecology - Microbiology - Nutrition

Diet and Environment Shape Fecal Bacterial Microbiota Composition and Enteric Pathogen Load of Grizzly Bears
Published: Thursday, December 15, 2011
Author: Clarissa Schwab et al.

by Clarissa Schwab, Bogdan Cristescu, Joseph M. Northrup, Gordon B. Stenhouse, Michael Gänzle

Background

Diet and environment impact the composition of mammalian intestinal microbiota; dietary or health disturbances trigger alterations in intestinal microbiota composition and render the host susceptible to enteric pathogens. To date no long term monitoring data exist on the fecal microbiota and pathogen load of carnivores either in natural environments or in captivity. This study investigates fecal microbiota composition and the presence of pathogenic Escherichia coli and toxigenic clostridia in wild and captive grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) and relates these to food resources consumed by bears.

Methodology/Principal Findings

Feces were obtained from animals of two wild populations and from two captive animals during an active bear season. Wild animals consumed a diverse diet composed of plant material, animal prey and insects. Captive animals were fed a regular granulated diet with a supplement of fruits and vegetables. Bacterial populations were analyzed using quantitative PCR. Fecal microbiota composition fluctuated in wild and in captive animals. The abundance of Clostridium clusters I and XI, and of C. perfringens correlated to regular diet protein intake. Enteroaggregative E. coli were consistently present in all populations. The C. sordellii phospholipase C was identified in three samples of wild animals and for the first time in Ursids.

Conclusion

This is the first longitudinal study monitoring the fecal microbiota of wild carnivores and comparing it to that of captive individuals of the same species. Location and diet affected fecal bacterial populations as well as the presence of enteric pathogens.

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