Transmission modes of the mammalian gut microbiota

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Science  26 Oct 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6413, pp. 453-457
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat7164

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Transmission of the gut community

Natural transmission of the mammalian microbiota is poorly understood. Some genera of bacteria are transmitted from mothers to offspring, whereas others are acquired from the wider environment. Moeller et al. derived inbred mouse lines from two wild populations of mice with distinct microbiota and monitored the populations' microbiomes for 3 years while they were kept in the same animal facility. The microbiota of the two mouse lineages remained distinct even after 10 generations. Most microbiota genera transmitted vertically. Those taxa that transmitted horizontally through the shared environment of the animal facility tended to be those that include pathogens.

Science, this issue p. 453


Mammals house a diversity of bacteria that affect health in various ways, but the routes by which bacterial lineages are transmitted between hosts remain poorly understood. We experimentally determined microbiota transmission modes by deriving 17 inbred mouse lines from two wild populations and monitoring their gut microbiotas for up to 11 host generations. Individual- and population-level microbiota compositions were maintained within mouse lines throughout the experiment, indicating predominantly vertical inheritance of the microbiota. However, certain bacterial taxa tended to be exchanged horizontally between mouse lines. Consistent with evolutionary theory, the degree of horizontal transmission predicted bacterial genera with pathogenic representatives responsible for human infections and hospitalizations.

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