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

Klára Vlčková, 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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)943-954
Number of pages12
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016


  • Antibiotics
  • Bacteria
  • Gastrointestinal microbiome
  • Gorilla
  • Illumina MiSeq
  • Medical treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Soil Science


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