Microbial Ecology

, Volume 72, Issue 4, pp 943–954 | Cite as

Effect of Antibiotic Treatment on the Gastrointestinal Microbiome of Free-Ranging Western Lowland Gorillas (Gorilla g. gorilla)

  • Klára VlčkováEmail author
  • Andres Gomez
  • Klára J. Petrželková
  • Christopher A. Whittier
  • Angelique F. Todd
  • Carl J. Yeoman
  • Karen E. Nelson
  • Brenda A. Wilson
  • Rebecca M. Stumpf
  • David Modrý
  • Bryan A. White
  • Steven R. Leigh
Host Microbe Interactions


The mammalian gastrointestinal (GI) microbiome, which plays indispensable roles in host nutrition and health, is affected by numerous intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Among them, antibiotic (ATB) treatment is reported to have a significant effect on GI microbiome composition in humans and other animals. However, the impact of ATBs on the GI microbiome of free-ranging or even captive great apes remains poorly characterized. Here, we investigated the effect of cephalosporin treatment (delivered by intramuscular dart injection during a serious respiratory outbreak) on the GI microbiome of a wild habituated group of western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) in the Dzanga Sangha Protected Areas, Central African Republic. We examined 36 fecal samples from eight individuals, including samples before and after ATB treatment, and characterized the GI microbiome composition using Illumina-MiSeq sequencing of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene. The GI microbial profiles of samples from the same individuals before and after ATB administration indicate that the ATB treatment impacts GI microbiome stability and the relative abundance of particular bacterial taxa within the colonic ecosystem of wild gorillas. We observed a statistically significant increase in Firmicutes and a decrease in Bacteroidetes levels after ATB treatment. We found disruption of the fibrolytic community linked with a decrease of Ruminoccocus levels as a result of ATB treatment. Nevertheless, the nature of the changes observed after ATB treatment differs among gorillas and thus is dependent on the individual host. This study has important implications for ecology, management, and conservation of wild primates.


Gorilla Antibiotics Medical treatment Gastrointestinal microbiome Illumina MiSeq Bacteria 



We express our gratitude to the Government of the Central African Republic and to the World Wildlife Fund for granting permission to conduct our research in the Central African Republic, the Primate Habituation Programme (Dzanga-Ndoki National Park, Dzanga-Sangha Protected Areas) for the logistical support in the field, and all local trackers and assistants from Bai Hokou for their help with sample collection. Moreover, we would like to thank to Zoo Liberec for the financial support during ATB treatment of gorillas. We thank to the Roy J. Carver Biotechnology Center, High-Throughput Sequencing and Genotyping Unit, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for providing the amplicon sequencing using Illumina MiSeq Platform. This publication derives from the HPI-Lab, Laboratory for Infectious Diseases Common to Humans and (Non-Human) Primates, Czech Republic. This work was financially supported by the Internal Grant Agency of University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences Brno 47/2013/FVL, by the institutional support of the Institute of Vertebrate Biology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (RVO 68081766), and co-financed from European Social Fund and State Budget of the Czech Republic (project OPVK CZ.1.07/2.3.00/20.0300). Sequencing was supported by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) 0935347 and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

The non-invasive sample collection was conducted according to the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine of the Council of Europe and Directive 86/609/EEC on the Protection of Animals Used for Experimental and Other Scientific Purposes and meet the International Guiding Principles for Biomedical Research Involving Animals, as issued by the Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences (C.I.O.M.S., c/o WHO, CH 1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland). The research adhered to the legal requirements of the Central African Republic. Importation of the samples to the EU was approved by the State Veterinary Authority of the Czech Republic. The sequencing was conducted under University of Illinois IACUC protocol 11046.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Klára Vlčková
    • 1
    Email author
  • Andres Gomez
    • 2
    • 3
  • Klára J. Petrželková
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
  • Christopher A. Whittier
    • 7
    • 8
  • Angelique F. Todd
    • 9
  • Carl J. Yeoman
    • 10
  • Karen E. Nelson
    • 11
    • 16
  • Brenda A. Wilson
    • 3
    • 12
  • Rebecca M. Stumpf
    • 3
    • 13
  • David Modrý
    • 1
    • 6
    • 14
  • Bryan A. White
    • 3
  • Steven R. Leigh
    • 3
    • 15
  1. 1.Department of Pathology and Parasitology, Faculty of Veterinary MedicineUniversity of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences BrnoBrnoCzech Republic
  2. 2.J. Craig Venter InstituteLa JollaUSA
  3. 3.Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic BiologyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA
  4. 4.Institute of Vertebrate BiologyAcademy of Sciences of the Czech RepublicBrnoCzech Republic
  5. 5.Liberec ZooLiberecCzech Republic
  6. 6.Institute of ParasitologyBiology Centre of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech RepublicČeské BudějoviceCzech Republic
  7. 7.Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts UniversityNorth GraftonUSA
  8. 8.Department of Wildlife Health SciencesSmithsonian Conservation Biology InstituteWashingtonUSA
  9. 9.WWF, Dzanga Sangha Protected AreasBanguiCentral African Republic
  10. 10.Department of Animal and Range SciencesMontana State UniversityBozemanUSA
  11. 11.J. Craig Venter InstituteRockvilleUSA
  12. 12.Department of MicrobiologyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA
  13. 13.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA
  14. 14.CEITEC VFUUniversity of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences BrnoBrnoCzech Republic
  15. 15.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of Colorado at BoulderBoulderUSA
  16. 16.J. Craig Venter InstituteLa JollaUSA

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