Bacterial profiling of head lice isolated from the Orang Asli: A first report in Malaysia

Trop Biomed. 2020 Dec 1;37(4):884-895. doi: 10.47665/tb.37.4.884.


This study was carried out to determine from bacterial profiling to the bacterial profiles of head lice among the Orang Asli communities. The head lice were collected from Orang Asli community volunteers. The surface sterilized head lice pools were subjected to genomic DNA extraction while next generation sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene was performed using the Illumina MiSeq platform. Six female and three male head lice identified as Pediculus humanus capitis were collected. A total of 111 368 number of NGS sequencing reads were recorded while another 223 bacterial taxa sequences were obtained. Symbiotic bacteria showed the highest number of reads, with Arsenophonus and Rhodococcus sequences being the most abundant genera in the female and male samples, respectively. The female head lice contained a more distinct microbial diversity. Amongst the pathogenic bacterial species sequences noted were the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Streptobacillus moniliformis, Haemophilus influenzae, Bordetella pertussis and Acinetobacter baumannii. The 16S rRNA genome sequencing revealed a number of rare and pathogenic bacterial species within the head lice of the Orang Asli. The socio-economic practices of the community which involved forest foraging and hunting, and their poor living conditions potentially facilitated the transmission of zoonotic bacterial pathogens, including those found within the head lice. Hence, there is the possibility that the head lice could serve as vectors for the transmission of pathogenic bacteria. This study highlighted the diverse microbial community found within the head lice's gut of the Orang Asli, with the detection of multiple rare and pathogenic bacteria capable of causing severe infections.

PMID:33612742 | DOI:10.47665/tb.37.4.884