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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Genome-resolved metagenomics of eukaryotic populations during early colonization of premature infants and in hospital rooms.

  • Author(s): Olm, Matthew R;
  • West, Patrick T;
  • Brooks, Brandon;
  • Firek, Brian A;
  • Baker, Robyn;
  • Morowitz, Michael J;
  • Banfield, Jillian F
  • et al.

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Fungal infections are a significant cause of mortality and morbidity in hospitalized preterm infants, yet little is known about eukaryotic colonization of infants and of the neonatal intensive care unit as a possible source of colonizing strains. This is partly because microbiome studies often utilize bacterial 16S rRNA marker gene sequencing, a technique that is blind to eukaryotic organisms. Knowledge gaps exist regarding the phylogeny and microdiversity of eukaryotes that colonize hospitalized infants, as well as potential reservoirs of eukaryotes in the hospital room built environment.


Genome-resolved analysis of 1174 time-series fecal metagenomes from 161 premature infants revealed fungal colonization of 10 infants. Relative abundance levels reached as high as 97% and were significantly higher in the first weeks of life (p = 0.004). When fungal colonization occurred, multiple species were present more often than expected by random chance (p = 0.008). Twenty-four metagenomic samples were analyzed from hospital rooms of six different infants. Compared to floor and surface samples, hospital sinks hosted diverse and highly variable communities containing genomically novel species, including from Diptera (fly) and Rhabditida (worm) for which genomes were assembled. With the exception of Diptera and two other organisms, zygosity of the newly assembled diploid eukaryote genomes was low. Interestingly, Malassezia and Candida species were present in both room and infant gut samples.


Increased levels of fungal co-colonization may reflect synergistic interactions or differences in infant susceptibility to fungal colonization. Discovery of eukaryotic organisms that have not been sequenced previously highlights the benefit of genome-resolved analyses, and low zygosity of assembled genomes could reflect inbreeding or strong selection imposed by room conditions.

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