Publications in peer reviewed journals
Detection of Chlamydiaceae and Chlamydia-like organisms on the ocular surface of children and adults from a trachoma-endemic region2018 - Sci Rep, 1: 7432
Trachoma, the leading infectious cause of blindness, is caused by Chlamydia trachomatis (Ct), a bacterium of the phylum Chlamydiae. Recent investigations revealed the existence of additional families within the phylum Chlamydiae, also termed Chlamydia-like organisms (CLOs). In this study, the frequency of Ct and CLOs was examined in the eyes of healthy Sudanese (control) participants and those with trachoma (case). We tested 96 children (54 cases and 42 controls) and 93 adults (51 cases and 42 controls) using broad-range Chlamydiae and Ct-specific (omcB) real-time PCR. Samples positive by broad-range Chlamydiae testing were subjected to DNA sequencing. Overall Chlamydiae prevalence was 36%. Sequences corresponded to unclassified and classified Chlamydiae. Ct infection rate was significantly higher in children (31.5%) compared to adults (0%) with trachoma (p < 0.0001). In general, 21.5% of adults and 4.2% of children tested positive for CLOs (p = 0.0003). Our findings are consistent with previous investigations describing the central role of Ct in trachoma among children. This is the first study examining human eyes for the presence of CLOs. We found an age-dependent distribution of CLO DNA in human eyes with significantly higher positivity in adults. Further studies are needed to understand the impact of CLOs in trachoma pathogenicity and/or protection.
Microbial conservation in the Anthropocene.2018 - Environ. Microbiol., in press
Microbiomes : Importance of invertebrates in understanding the natural variety of animal-microbe interactions2018 - mSystems, 2: in press
Animals evolved in a world teeming with microbes, which play pivotal roles in their health, development, and evolution. Although the overwhelming majority of living animals are invertebrates, the minority of "microbiome" studies focus on this group. Interest in invertebrate-microbe interactions is 2-fold-a range of immune components are conserved across almost all animal (including human) life, and their functional roles may be conserved. Thus, understanding cross talk between microbes and invertebrate animals can lead to insights of broader relevance. Invertebrates offer unique opportunities to "eavesdrop" on intricate host-microbe conversations because they tend to associate with fewer microbes. On the other hand, considering the vast diversity of form and function that has evolved in the invertebrates, they likely evolved an equally diverse range of ways to interact with beneficial microbes. We have investigated only a few of these interactions in detail; thus, there is still great potential for fundamentally new discoveries.
Ecology and Biotechnological Potential of Bacteria Belonging to the Genus Pseudovibrio.2018 - Appl. Environ. Microbiol., 8: in press
Members of the genus have been isolated worldwide from a great variety of marine sources as both free-living and host-associated bacteria. So far, the available data depict a group of alphaproteobacteria characterized by a versatile metabolism, which allows them to use a variety of substrates to meet their carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorous requirements. Additionally, -related bacteria have been shown to proliferate under extreme oligotrophic conditions, tolerate high heavy-metal concentrations, and metabolize potentially toxic compounds. Considering this versatility, it is not surprising that they have been detected from temperate to tropical regions and are often the most abundant isolates obtained from marine invertebrates. Such an association is particularly recurrent with marine sponges and corals, animals that play a key role in benthic marine systems. The data so far available indicate that these bacteria are mainly beneficial to the host, and besides being involved in major nutrient cycles, they could provide the host with both vitamins/cofactors and protection from potential pathogens via the synthesis of antimicrobial secondary metabolites. In fact, the biosynthetic abilities of spp. have been emerging in recent years, and both genomic and analytic studies have underlined how these organisms promise novel natural products of biotechnological value.
NanoSIMS and tissue autoradiography reveal symbiont carbon fixation and organic carbon transfer to giant ciliate host.2018 - ISME J, 3: 714-727
The giant colonial ciliate Zoothamnium niveum harbors a monolayer of the gammaproteobacteria Cand. Thiobios zoothamnicoli on its outer surface. Cultivation experiments revealed maximal growth and survival under steady flow of high oxygen and low sulfide concentrations. We aimed at directly demonstrating the sulfur-oxidizing, chemoautotrophic nature of the symbionts and at investigating putative carbon transfer from the symbiont to the ciliate host. We performed pulse-chase incubations with C- and C-labeled bicarbonate under varying environmental conditions. A combination of tissue autoradiography and nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry coupled with transmission electron microscopy was used to follow the fate of the radioactive and stable isotopes of carbon, respectively. We show that symbiont cells fix substantial amounts of inorganic carbon in the presence of sulfide, but also (to a lesser degree) in the absence of sulfide by utilizing internally stored sulfur. Isotope labeling patterns point to translocation of organic carbon to the host through both release of these compounds and digestion of symbiont cells. The latter mechanism is also supported by ultracytochemical detection of acid phosphatase in lysosomes and in food vacuoles of ciliate cells. Fluorescence in situ hybridization of freshly collected ciliates revealed that the vast majority of ingested microbial cells were ectosymbionts.
Coexistence of novel gammaproteobacterial and Arsenophonus symbionts in the scale insect Greenisca brachypodii (Hemiptera, Coccomorpha: Eriococcidae)2018 - Environ. Microbiol., in press
Scale insects are commonly associated with obligate, intracellular microorganisms which play important roles in complementing their hosts with essential nutrients. Here we characterized the symbiotic system of Greenisca brachypodii, a member of the family Eriococcidae. Histological and ultrastructural analyses have indicated that G. brachypodii is stably associated with coccoid and rod-shaped bacteria. Phylogenetic analyses have revealed that the coccoid bacteria represent a sister group to the secondary symbiont of the mealybug Melanococcus albizziae, whereas the rod-shaped symbionts are close relatives of Arsenophonus symbionts in insects - to our knowledge, this is the first report of the presence of Arsenophonus bacterium in scale insects. As a comparison of 16S and 23S rRNA genes sequences of the G. brachypodii coccoid symbiont with other gammaprotebacterial sequences showed only low similarity (∼90%), we propose the name 'Candidatus Kotejella greeniscae' for its tentative classification. Both symbionts are transovarially transmitted from one generation to the next. The infection takes place in the neck region of the ovariole. The bacteria migrate between follicular cells, as well as through the cytoplasm of those cells to the perivitelline space, where they form a characteristic 'symbiont ball'. Our findings provide evidence for a polyphyletic origin of symbionts of Eriococcidae. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.