The gut mycobiota of rural and urban individuals is shaped by geography

01 Oct 2020

BACKGROUND : Understanding the structure and drivers of gut microbiota remains a major ecological endeavour. Recent studies have shown that several factors including diet, lifestyle and geography may substantially shape the human gut microbiota. However, most of these studies have focused on the more abundant bacterial component and comparatively less is known regarding fungi in the human gut. This knowledge deficit is especially true for rural and urban African populations. Therefore, we assessed the structure and drivers of rural and urban gut mycobiota. RESULTS : Our participants (n = 100) were balanced by geography and sex. The mycobiota of these geographically separated cohorts was characterized using amplicon analysis of the Internal Transcribed Spacer (ITS) gene. We further assessed biomarker species specific to rural and urban cohorts. In addition to phyla which have been shown to be ubiquitous constituents of gut microbiota, Pichia were key constituents of the mycobiota. We found that geographic location was a major driver of gut mycobiota. Other factors such as smoking where also determined gut mycobiota albeit to a lower extent, as explained by the small proportion of total variation. Linear discriminant and the linear discriminant analysis effect size analysis revealed several distinct urban and rural biomarkers. CONCLUSIONS : Together, our analysis reveals distinct community structure in urban and rural South African individuals. Geography was shown to be a key driver of rural and urban gut mycobiota.