The Old World vulture may carry and spread pathogens for emerging infections since they feed on the carcasses of dead animals and participate in the sky burials of humans, some of whom have died from communicable diseases. Therefore, we studied the precise fecal microbiome of the Old World vulture with metataxonomics, integrating the high-throughput sequencing of almost full-length small subunit ribosomal RNA (16S rRNA) gene amplicons in tandem with the operational phylogenetic unit (OPU) analysis strategy. Nine vultures of three species were sampled using rectal swabs on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, China. Using the Pacific Biosciences sequencing platform, we obtained 54 135 high-quality reads of 16S rRNA amplicons with an average of 1442±6.9?bp in length and 6015±1058 reads per vulture. Those sequences were classified into 314 OPUs, including 102 known species, 50 yet to be described species and 161 unknown new lineages of uncultured representatives. Forty-five species have been reported to be responsible for human outbreaks or infections, and 23 yet to be described species belong to genera that include pathogenic species. Only six species were common to all vultures. Clostridium perfringens was the most abundant and present in all vultures, accounting for 30.8% of the total reads. Therefore, using the new technology, we found that vultures are an important reservoir for C. perfringens as evidenced by the isolation of 107 strains encoding for virulence genes, representing 45 sequence types. Our study suggests that the soil-related C. perfringens and other pathogens could have a reservoir in vultures and other animals.
Journal: Emerging microbes and infections