Helminth infections and nutrition can independently alter the composition and abundance of the gastrointestinal microbiota, however, their combined effect is poorly understood. Here, we used the T. retortaeformis-rabbit system to examine how the helminth infection and host restriction from coprophagy/ready-to-absorb nutrients affected the duodenal microbiota, and how these changes related to the acquired immune response at the site of infection. A factorial experiment was performed where the bacterial community, its functionality and the immune response were examined in four treatments (Infect, Infect+Collar, Control+Collar and Control). Helminths reduced the diversity and abundance of the microbiota while the combination of parasites and coprophagic restriction led to a more diversified and abundant microbiota than infected cases, without significantly affecting the intensity of infection. Animals restricted from coprophagy and free from parasites exhibited the richest and most abundant bacterial community. By forcing the individuals to absorb nutrients from less digested food, the coprophagic restriction appears to have facilitated the diversity and proliferation of bacteria in the duodenum. Changes in the microbiota were more clearly associated with changes in the immune response for the infected than the nutrient restricted animals. The functional and metabolic characteristics of the duodenal microbiota were not significantly different between treatments. Overall, infection and diet affect the gut microbiota but their interactions and outcome can be complex. These findings can have important implications for the development of control measures to helminth infections where poor nutrition/malnutrition can also be a concern.
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