Maturation of the infant rhesus macaque gut microbiome and its role in the development of diarrheal disease

Nicholas Rhoades, Tasha Barr, Sara Hendrickson, Kamm Prongay, Andrew Haertel, Leanne Gill, Laura Garzel, Katrine Whiteson, Mark Slifka, Ilhem Messaoudi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Background: Diarrhea is the second leading cause of death in children under 5 years of age. Enhanced understanding of causal pathways, pathogenesis, and sequelae of diarrhea is urgently needed. Although the gut microbiota is believed to play a role in susceptibility to diarrheal diseases, our understanding of this association remains incomplete. Infant rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) are susceptible to diarrhea making them an ideal model to address this question. Results: The maturation of the infant rhesus macaque gut microbiome throughout the first 8 months of life occurs in a similar pattern as that described for human infants. Moreover, the microbiome of the captive reared infant rhesus macaque more closely resembles that of human infants in the developing world than in the western world. Importantly, prior to disease onset, the gut microbiome of infants that later develop diarrhea is enriched in pathways of immunomodulatory metabolite synthesis, while those of infants that remain asymptomatic are enriched in pathways for short-chain fatty acid production. We identify Prevotella strains that are more abundant at 1 month in infants that later develop diarrhea. At 8 months, the microbiomes of animals that experience diarrhea show increased abundance of Campylobacter and a reduction in Helicobacter macacae. Conclusion: The composition of the microbial community could provide a phenotypic marker of an infant's susceptibility to diarrheal disease. Given the significant physiological and immunological similarities between human and nonhuman primates, these findings provide potential markers of susceptibility to diarrhea that could be modulated to improve infant health, especially in the developing world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number173
JournalGenome biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 26 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Cell Biology


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