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Metagenomic analysis of the gastrointestinal microbiota of Gadus morhua callarias L. originating from a chemical munition dump site

Several hundred thousand tonnes of munitions containing chemical warfare agents (CWAs) are lying on the seafloor worldwide. CWAs have started leaking from corroded munitions, and their presence in the environment and in organisms inhabiting dump sites has been detected. The presence of CWAs in the water negatively affects fish, macrobenthos and free-living bacteria. It can be expected that the presence of CWAs would also affect the gut-associated bacteria in fish, which are vital for their condition. The main aim of this study was to test if the microbiota of cod collected in the Baltic Bornholm Deep (highly polluted with CWAs) is dysregulated. To investigate this, we conducted metagenomic studies based on 16S rRNA gene sequencing. We found that the microbiota of cod inhabiting the dump site was significantly less taxonomically diverse compared to those from a non-polluted reference site. Moreover, taxa associated with fish diseases (e.g., Vibrionaceae, Aeromonadaceae) were more prevalent, and probiotic taxa (e.g., Actinobacteriota, Rhodobacteraceae) were less frequent in the guts of individuals from the dump site, than those from the reference site. The differences in vulnerability of various bacterial taxa inhabiting cod gastrointestinal tracts to CWAs were hypothesised to be responsible for the observed microbiota dysregulation.



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