Antibiotic exposure perturbs the gut microbiota and elevates mortality in honeybees
Gut microbiomes play crucial roles in animal health, and shifts in the gut microbial community structure can have detrimental impacts on hosts. Studies with vertebrate models and human subjects suggest that antibiotic treatments greatly perturb the native gut community, thereby facilitating proliferation of pathogens. In fact, persistent infections following antibiotic treatment are a major medical issue. In apiculture, antibiotics are frequently used to prevent bacterial infections of larval bees, but the impact of antibiotic-induced dysbiosis (microbial imbalance) on bee health and susceptibility to disease has not been fully elucidated. Here, we evaluated the effects of antibiotic exposure on the size and composition of honeybee gut communities. We monitored the survivorship of bees following antibiotic treatment in order to determine if dysbiosis of the gut microbiome impacts honeybee health, and we performed experiments to determine whether antibiotic exposure increases susceptibility to infection by opportunistic pathogens. Our results show that antibiotic treatment can have persistent effects on both the size and composition of the honeybee gut microbiome.