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  1. Alexandre, Gladys (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Environmental nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM), with the potential to cause opportunistic lung infections, can reside in soil. This might be particularly relevant in Hawai’i, a geographic hot spot for NTM infections and whose soil composition differs from many other areas of the world. Soil components are likely to contribute to NTM prevalence in certain niches as food sources or attachment scaffolds, but the particular types of soils, clays, and minerals that impact NTM growth are not well-defined. Hawai’i soil and chemically weathered rock (saprolite) samples were examined to characterize the microbiome and quantify 11 mineralogical features as well as soil pH. Machine learning methods were applied to identify important soil features influencing the presence of NTM. Next, these features were directly tested in vitro by incubating synthetic clays and minerals in the presence of Mycobacteroides abscessus and Mycobacterium chimaera isolates recovered from the Hawai'i environment, and changes in bacterial growth were determined. Of the components examined, synthetic gibbsite, a mineral form of aluminum hydroxide, inhibited the growth of both M. abscessus and M. chimaera , while other minerals tested showed differential effects on each species. For example, M. abscessus (but not M. chimaera ) growth was significantly higher in themore »presence of hematite, an iron oxide mineral. In contrast, M. chimaera (but not M. abscessus ) counts were significantly reduced in the presence of birnessite, a manganese-containing mineral. These studies shed new light on the mineralogic features that promote or inhibit the presence of Hawai’i NTM in Hawai’i soil. IMPORTANCE Globally and in the United States, the prevalence of NTM pulmonary disease—a potentially life-threatening but underdiagnosed chronic illness—is prominently rising. While NTM are ubiquitous in the environment, including in soil, the specific soil components that promote or inhibit NTM growth have not been elucidated. We hypothesized that NTM culture-positive soil contains minerals that promote NTM growth in vitro . Because Hawai’i is a hot spot for NTM and a unique geographic archipelago, we examined the composition of Hawai’i soil and identified individual clay, iron, and manganese minerals associated with NTM. Next, individual components were evaluated for their ability to directly modulate NTM growth in culture. In general, gibbsite and some manganese oxides were shown to decrease NTM, whereas iron-containing minerals were associated with higher NTM counts. These data provide new information to guide future analyses of soil-associated factors impacting persistence of these soil bacteria.« less
  2. Alexandre, Gladys (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT The etiology of sea star wasting syndrome is hypothesized to be caused by a densovirus, sea star-associated densovirus (SSaDV), that has previously been reported on the Pacific and Atlantic Coasts of the United States. In this study, we reevaluated the presence of SSaDV among sea stars from the North American Atlantic Coast and in doing so discovered a novel densovirus that we have named Asterias forbesi -associated densovirus (AfaDV), which shares 78% nucleotide pairwise identity with SSaDV. In contrast to previous studies, SSaDV was not detected in sea stars from the North American Atlantic Coast. Using a variety of PCR-based techniques, we investigated the tissue tropism, host specificity, and prevalence of AfaDV among populations of sea stars at five locations along the Atlantic Coast. AfaDV was detected in three sea star species ( Asterias forbesi , Asterias rubens , and Henricia sp.) found in this region and was highly prevalent (>80% of individuals tested; n  = 134), among sampled populations. AfaDV was detected in the body wall, gonads, and pyloric caeca (digestive gland) of specimens but was not detected in their coelomic fluid. A significant difference in viral load (copies mg −1 ) was found between tissue types, with themore »pyloric caeca having the highest viral loads. Further investigation of Asterias forbesi gonad tissue found germ line cells (oocytes) to be virus positive, suggesting a potential route of vertical transmission. Taken together, these observations show that the presence of AfaDV is not an indicator of sea star wasting syndrome because AfaDV is a common constituent of these animals’ microbiome, regardless of health. IMPORTANCE Sea star wasting syndrome is a disease primarily observed on the Pacific and Atlantic Coasts of North America that has significantly impacted sea star populations. The etiology of this disease is unknown, although it is hypothesized to be caused by a densovirus, SSaDV. However, previous studies have not found a correlation between SSaDV and sea star wasting syndrome on the North American Atlantic Coast. This study suggests that this observation may be explained by the presence of a genetically similar densovirus, AfaDV, that may have confounded previous studies. SSaDV was not present in sea stars screened in this study, and instead, AfaDV was commonly found in sea star populations across the New England region, with no apparent signs of disease. These results suggest that sea star densoviruses may be common constituents of the animals’ microbiome, and the diversity and extent of these viruses among wild populations may be greater than previously recognized.« less