An experimental test of disease resistance function in the skin-associated bacterial communities of three tropical amphibian species

Myra C. Hughey, Eria A. Rebollar, Reid N. Harris, Roberto Ibáñez, Stephen C. Loftus, Leanna L. House, Kevin P.C. Minbiole, Molly C. Bletz, Daniel Medina, William R. Shoemaker, Meredith C. Swartwout, Lisa K. Belden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Variation in the structure of host-associated microbial communities has been correlated with the occurrence and severity of disease in diverse host taxa, suggesting a key role of the microbiome in pathogen defense. However, whether these correlations are typically a cause or consequence of pathogen exposure remains an open question, and requires experimental approaches to disentangle. In amphibians, infection by the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) alters the skin microbial community in some host species, whereas in other species, the skin microbial community appears to mediate infection dynamics. In this study, we completed experimental Bd exposures in three species of tropical frogs (Agalychnis callidryas, Dendropsophus ebraccatus,andCraugastor fitzingeri) that were sympatric with Bd at the time of the study. For all three species, we identified key taxa within the skin bacterial communities that were linked to Bd infection dynamics. We also measured higher Bd infection intensities in D. ebraccatus and C. fitzingeri that were associated with higher mortality in C. fitzingeri. Our findings indicate that microbially mediated pathogen resistance is a complex trait that can vary within and across host species, and suggest that symbiont communities that have experienced prior selection for defensive microbes may be less likely to be disturbed by pathogen exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberfiac023
JournalFEMS microbiology ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

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