The primate gastrointestinal (GI) tract is home to trillions of bacteria that play major roles in digestion and metabolism, immune system development, and pathogen resistance, among other important aspects of host health and behavior. In 2009, the Human Microbiome Project was established with the goal of better understanding the role microbial communities play in health and disease. While the research community has made substantial progress in understanding the role microbial communities play in human health and disease, much less attention has been given to host-associated microbiomes in nonhuman primates (NHPs). My research is focused on developing a better understanding of the link between primate microbial communities and the establishment and maintenance of health. I have begun exploring host-associated microbiomes in NHPs, including red-shanked doucs (Pygathrix nemaeus) and mantled howling monkeys (Alouatta palliata), among other species. Some primate species, such as the red-shanked douc, fail to thrive in captivity due to health issues (e.g., gastrointestinal disease). Maintenance of many primate species in captive settings is hindered by critical gaps in our understanding of their natural diet and the enteric microbial adaptations that facilitate the digestive process. By comparing wild and captive animals within the same species, I hope to determine whether shifts in gut microbiota are linked with health in captivity. Microbes can act as indicators for health of the host, thus broad primate microbiome surveys may allow for the development of predictive biomarkers to improve nonhuman primate health and management.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. December 2015. Major: Comparative and Molecular Biosciences. Advisors: Timothy Johnson, Michael Murtaugh. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 137 pages.
Associations Between Nutrition, Gut Microbial Communities, and Health in Nonhuman Primates.
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