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Tick Microbiome Characterization by Next-Generation 16S rRNA Amplicon Sequencing.

Abstract

In recent decades, vector-borne diseases have re-emerged and expanded at alarming rates, causing considerable morbidity and mortality worldwide. Effective and widely available vaccines are lacking for a majority of these diseases, necessitating the development of novel disease mitigation strategies. To this end, a promising avenue of disease control involves targeting the vector microbiome, the community of microbes inhabiting the vector. The vector microbiome plays a pivotal role in pathogen dynamics, and manipulations of the microbiome have led to reduced vector abundance or pathogen transmission for a handful of vector-borne diseases. However, translating these findings into disease control applications requires a thorough understanding of vector microbial ecology, historically limited by insufficient technology in this field. The advent of next-generation sequencing approaches has enabled rapid, highly parallel sequencing of diverse microbial communities. Targeting the highly-conserved 16S rRNA gene has facilitated characterizations of microbes present within vectors under varying ecological and experimental conditions. This technique involves amplification of the 16S rRNA gene, sample barcoding via PCR, loading samples onto a flow cell for sequencing, and bioinformatics approaches to match sequence data with phylogenetic information. Species or genus-level identification for a high number of replicates can typically be achieved through this approach, thus circumventing challenges of low detection, resolution, and output from traditional culturing, microscopy, or histological staining techniques. Therefore, this method is well-suited for characterizing vector microbes under diverse conditions but cannot currently provide information on microbial function, location within the vector, or response to antibiotic treatment. Overall, 16S next-generation sequencing is a powerful technique for better understanding the identity and role of vector microbes in disease dynamics.

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