Defining how feline skin microbiota relate to allergies

Do certain types microbiota show up on the skin of allergic cats that aren’t on the skin of healthy cats?

Researchers from Texas A&M University set out to test bacterial microbiota on different skin surfaces of healthy cats and cats with allergic skin disease. Testing the microbiota is a growing area of research in the field of veterinary medicine and while human and canine skin microbiota has been the subject of multiple studies, cats are less tested. The open access study appeared in the June 2017 issue of PLOS ONE.

In this study, the skin surface on various regions of 11 healthy cats and 10 allergic cats were sampled. By studying the microbiota on skin in healthy individuals, the researchers could begin to set a standard of “normal” microbiota. Skin swabs were collected from 12 sites on healthy cats including the chin, nostril, ear canal, and oral cavity. For allergic cats, skin swabs were collected from six sites.

For healthy cats, body site had an impact on difference in community structure. The most common phyla found were Proteobacteria (46.4%), followed by Bacteroidetes (20.7%), Firmicutes (17.7%), Actinobacteria (8.6%), and Fusobacteria (4.1%). The most common families were Porphyromonadaceae, Moraxellaceae, Pasteurellaceae, and Pseudomonadaceae. There were significant differences in abundance based on physiology, body site, and the individual cat.

For allergic cats, metrics indicated significant differences between individual cats and unlike samples from healthy cats, the samples from allergic cats did not cluster by body site. The most common phyla in allergic cats were Proteobacteria (49.0%) followed by Firmicutes (21.5%), Actinobacteria (13.7%), Bacteroidetes (11.2%), and Fusobacteria (3.0%). The most abundant families were Pseudomonadaceae, Moraxellaceae, Pasteurellaceae, and Neisseriaceae.

No significant differences were found in species richness and diversity between healthy and allergic cats. There was a differences in the prevalence of microbiota families, indicating that healthy cats had more Oxalobacteraceae and Porphyromonadaceae, and allergic cats had more Staphylococcus. Another recent study of cats showed increased Staphylococcus on allergic cats as well. Higher proportions of Staphylococcus have been associated with atopic dermatitis in humans and dogs, which indicates there could be also be a relationship between the two in cats.

The sample cohort for the study was small because the researchers wanted as much homogeneity in the sample size as possible. While they concluded that the study revealed there are many more bacterial species on feline skin than previously thought, additional follow up studies should be done with larger sample sizes to support their findings.

Photo credit: © iStock/foaloce

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