Shark skin microbiome resists infection

November 04, 2019

A survey of the shark skin microbiome provides the first step toward understanding the remarkable resilience of shark wounds to infection.

In the wild, blacktip reef sharks are often seen bearing wounds, but they rarely exhibit obvious signs of infection around the wounds. As a first step toward understanding this phenomenon, an international team led by researchers at KAUST's Red Sea Research Center investigated the microbial community living on the skin of sharks.

The team collected skin mucus samples from the backs and gills of wild-caught blacktip reef sharks around the Seychelles Islands. Next, they sequenced the 16S rRNA gene from these samples in order to identify the bacteria. Finally, they compared the bacterial communities from different samples to detect changes in response to injury.

The team's analysis revealed no difference between the bacterial communities on injured skin on gills and uninjured gills or backs. In other words, there was no evidence of infection around the wounds. "We were surprised not to find any substantial change in the skin bacterial communities," says Claudia Pogoreutz, the postdoctoral fellow who led the study.

"This suggests shark skin doesn't become infected easily and that the native bacterial community of the skin can be maintained even after injury," she adds. "We really need to delve deeper into bacterial functions and innate immunity of sharks to understand what is really going on and how wound healing in sharks is mediated."

However, the team did find differences in the bacterial communities collected from the skin of sharks at different locations. Although the sites were just a few kilometers apart, they could be relatively isolated from each other by factors, such as ocean currents and the reluctance of blacktip reef sharks to move between habitats or cross deeper straits. The differences in shark skin microbial communities may reflect differences in the ambient environment, such as temperature, population density, nutrient availability or pollution, but researchers cannot rule out the possibility that the changes could provide an adaptive benefit to the sharks.

Based on their findings, the team identified a core skin microbiome that is conserved across blacktip reef sharks, alongside site-specific differences. They also found no changes in the microbiome around wounds, suggesting that they don't get infected or that any infections are too mild to detect.

Plenty of questions remain: from understanding the regional differences to figuring out if and how the microbiome contributes to wound healing and infection resistance. "There's still so much to learn with respect to shark skin-associated bacteria," says Pogoreutz.

King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST)

Related Microbiome Articles from Brightsurf:

The microbiome of Da Vinci's drawings
The microbiome study of seven drawings from Leonardo Da Vinci reveals that conservation work, geographical location, and past contaminations leave invisible traces on drawings despite their optimal storage conditions: a novel aspect of art objects that could be monitored to establish a bioarchive of our artistic heritage.

Managing the microbiome raises new hope for autism
Analysis of 619 plasma metabolites in a new study show a distinctive metabolic profile in autistic children prior to microbial transfer therapy The procedure helps modify gut microbiota, improving symptoms gastrointestinal and behavioral symptoms of the disease.

Discoveries reshape understanding of gut microbiome
The findings redefine how the so-called gut microbiome operates and how our bodies coexist with some of the 100 trillion bacteria that make it up.

A new tool for modeling the human gut microbiome
MIT engineers designed a device that replicates the lining of the colon.

How viruses and bacteria balance each other in the gut microbiome
A tiny arms race between bacteria and the viruses that attack them inside the gut could eventually offer a new way to treat out-of-balance microbiomes.

Microbiome confers resistance to cholera
Many parts of the world are in the midst of a deadly pandemic of cholera, an extreme form of watery diarrhea.

Parasites and the microbiome
In a study of ethnically diverse people from Cameroon, the presence of a parasite infection was closely linked to the make-up of the gastrointestinal microbiome, according to a research team led by Penn scientists.

Gut microbiome influences ALS outcomes
Harvard University scientists have identified a new gut-brain connection in the neurodegenerative disease ALS.

The microbiome controls immune system fitness
Working alongside colleagues in Mainz, Bern, Hannover and Bonn, researchers from Charité -- Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) and the German Rheumatism Research Center Berlin (DRFZ) were able to show how the microbiome helps to render the immune system capable of responding to pathogens.

Researchers uncover the moscow subway microbiome
Recently, a group of ITMO University researchers has looked into the microbiome of the Moscow Subway.

Read More: Microbiome News and Microbiome Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to