Forsell J, Bengtsson-Palme J, Angelin M, Johansson A, Evengård B, Granlund M
BMC Microbiol. 17 (1) 231 [2017-12-11; online 2017-12-11]
Blastocystis sp. is a unicellular eukaryote that is commonly found in the human intestine. Its ability to cause disease is debated and a subject for ongoing research. In this study, faecal samples from 35 Swedish university students were examined through shotgun metagenomics before and after travel to the Indian peninsula or Central Africa. We aimed at assessing the impact of travel on Blastocystis carriage and seek associations between Blastocystis and the bacterial microbiota. We found a prevalence of Blastocystis of 16/35 (46%) before travel and 15/35 (43%) after travel. The two most commonly Blastocystis subtypes (STs) found were ST3 and ST4, accounting for 20 of the 31 samples positive for Blastocystis. No mixed subtype carriage was detected. All ten individuals with a typable ST before and after travel maintained their initial ST. The composition of the gut bacterial community was not significantly different between Blastocystis-carriers and non-carriers. Interestingly, the presence of Blastocystis was accompanied with higher abundances of the bacterial genera Sporolactobacillus and Candidatus Carsonella. Blastocystis carriage was positively associated with high bacterial genus richness, and negatively correlated to the Bacteroides-driven enterotype. These associations were both largely dependent on ST4 - a subtype commonly described from Europe - while the globally prevalent ST3 did not show such significant relationships. The high rate of Blastocystis subtype persistence found during travel indicates that long-term carriage of Blastocystis is common. The associations between Blastocystis and the bacterial microbiota found in this study could imply a link between Blastocystis and a healthy microbiota as well as with diets high in vegetables. Whether the associations between Blastocystis and the microbiota are resulting from the presence of Blastocystis, or are a prerequisite for colonization with Blastocystis, are interesting questions for further studies.