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Intestinal microflora of wild animals. Sorex araneus araneus L. and Clethrionomys glareolus glareolus Schreb. III. Seasonal changes



Intestinal microflora of wild animals. Sorex araneus araneus L. and Clethrionomys glareolus glareolus Schreb. III. Seasonal changes



Acta Microbiol Polon 11(1/2): 93-110



All examined animals were apparently in good health, and most of them belonged to the same generation. It seems that sex does not influence the distribution of intestinal microorganisms. Lack of differences between the microfloras of the "old" animals (generation born during the previous year) and the "young" ones (generation born during the year of research) in any seasons, points to the irrelevance of age of animals. Apparently the intestinal microflora varies through seasons and with the state of nutrition of animals. The changes in microflora of Cl. glareolus for the four seasons are shown in S. araneus, for summer and autumn only. The changes in distribution of Gram-negative rods and of streptococci are shown. The picture in autumn is comparable to that noted during summer. The total number of microorganisms is slightly diminished, especially in the jejunum. The slight increase in the proportion of Gram-positive flora was noted. The incidence of Enterobacteriaceae and strptococci was decreased. The marked and striking change occurred during late autumn and a new pattern of microflora was formed in the winter, persisting until May. These changes consist in marked decrease of the total number of micro-organisms, of viable count, in increase in the proportion of cocci (including K forms), in diminishing of the number of Gram-negative rods and aerobic bacilli. Soil clostridia in the jejunum were also eliminated. On the other hand the highly specialized cellulolytic clostridia of the cecum were even more abundant. Enterobacteriaceae, especially E. coli and related bacteria, became exceedingly rare. gamma-Hemolytic streptococci were displaced by a-hemolytic strains and the incidence of all streptococci diminished greatly. A similar picture was revealed in S. araneus, but the changes occurring during winter could not be studied as thoroughly, because of the small number of animals examined during this season. These profound changes in quantity and quality of intestinal microflora were stabilized and persisted through the spring. This persistance of the changed pattern of microflora through spring is rather unexpected, because the diet of examined rodents during spring resembled rather the summer diet than that characteristic for the winter. The change of diet is then not followed by an immediate change in the pattern of intestinal microflora. The typical for the summer pattern of intestinal microflora is rebuilt very slowly and this process of rebuilding is not completed before the last decade of May. It is difficult to evaluate the factors which have led to these changes. It may be assumed that diet is one of the chief variables that influence the distribution of intestinal microflora. The winter diet of Cl. glareolus is relatively rich in cellulose, lignine, hemicellulose and starch. At the same time it contains a number of plant tissues rich in various bacteriostatic and bactericidal substances (tree bark, buds, lichenes etc.). These bacteriostatic and bactericidal constituents of food may have a selective influence on the micro-bial population in the intestine, leading to quantitative decrease and marked qualitative changes in it. In S. araneus the dietary factors must have a different nature, insects being the chief food of this animal. During the winter S. araneus is deprived of some important kinds of food (e.g. earthworms, actively feeding insects). These changes may have also some bearing on the changes of intestinal flora of the animal. On the other hand the physiological changes which occur in mammals through seasons may also influence the distribution of microorganisms. In this connection it is worth noting that the changes in skull morphology, in the thymus and thyroid glands. (Dehnel 1950, Bazan 1952, Dzierzykraj - Rogalska 1952, Pucek 1954) and in some haematological indices (Kunicki- Goldfinger and Kunicka-Goldfinger 1962c) have a very similar pattern to the one observed when studying intestinal microflora. It is difficult to interpret sufficiently the results of observations of intestinal flora of small wild mammals such as Cl. glareolus and S. araneus. However, informations about the behavior of intestinal flora of animals living in their natural environment, without man's interference, could provide a useful guide for further experiments and observations.

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