Stability of the gorilla microbiome despite simian immunodeficiency virus infection

Andrew H. Moeller, Martine Peeters, Ahidjo Ayouba, Eitel Mpoudi Ngole, Amadine Esteban, Beatrice H. Hahn, Howard Ochman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIVs) have been discovered in over 45 primate species; however, the pathogenic potential of most SIV strains remains unknown due to difficulties inherent in observing wild populations. Because those SIV infections that are pathogenic have been shown to induce changes in the host's gut microbiome, monitoring the microbiota present in faecal samples can provide a noninvasive means for studying the effects of SIV infection on the health of wild-living primates. Here, we examine the effects of SIVgor, a close relative of SIVcpz of chimpanzees and HIV-1 of humans, on the gut bacterial communities residing within wild gorillas, revealing that gorilla gut microbiomes are exceptionally robust to SIV infection. In contrast to the microbiomes of HIV-1-infected humans and SIVcpz-infected chimpanzees, SIVgor-infected gorilla microbiomes exhibit neither rises in the frequencies of opportunistic pathogens nor elevated rates of microbial turnover within individual hosts. Regardless of SIV infection status, gorilla microbiomes assort into enterotypes, one of which is compositionally analogous to those identified in humans and chimpanzees. The other gorilla enterotype appears specialized for a leaf-based diet and is enriched in environmentally derived bacterial genera. We hypothesize that the acquisition of this gorilla-specific enterotype was enabled by lowered immune system control over the composition of the microbiome. Our results indicate differences between the pathology of SIVgor and SIVcpz/HIV-1 infections, demonstrating the utility of investigating host microbial ecology as a means for studying disease in wild primates of high conservation priority.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)690-697
Number of pages8
JournalMolecular ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


  • bacteria
  • coevolution
  • community ecology
  • conservation biology
  • metabarcoding
  • microbial biology


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