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Microbes in Black Soldier Fly Guts Help Degrading Antibiotics

Discarded pharmaceutical products, including antibiotics, are serious environmental pollutants. Therefore, their successful decomposition is an important characteristic of an effective waste management. With the help of their rich gut microbiota, black soldier fly larvae have an impressive ability to degrade a number of commercially available antibiotics, including common and seemingly omnipresent tetracycline. Recent study investigated mechanisms behind this process.

Pei, Y., Sun, M., Zhang, J., Lei, A., Chen, H., Kang, X., Ni, H. and Yang, S., 2023. Comparative Metagenomic and Metatranscriptomic Analyses Reveal the Response of Black Soldier Fly (Hermetia illucens) Larvae Intestinal Microbes and Reduction Mechanisms to High Concentrations of Tetracycline. Toxics, 11(7), 611. https://doi.org/10.3390/toxics11070611 

Black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens L) larvae (BSFL) possess remarkable antibiotic degradation abilities due to their robust intestinal microbiota. However, the response mechanism of BSFL intestinal microbes to the high concentration of antibiotic stress remains unclear. In this study, we investigated the shift in BSFL gut microbiome and the functional genes that respond to 1250 mg/kg of tetracycline via metagenomic and metatranscriptomic analysis, respectively. The bio-physiological phenotypes showed that the survival rate of BSFL was not affected by tetracycline, while the biomass and substrate consumption of BSFL was slightly reduced. Natural BSFL achieved a 20% higher tetracycline degradation rate than the germ-free BSFL after 8 days of rearing. Metagenomic and metatranscriptomic sequencing results revealed the differences between the entire and active microbiome. Metatranscriptomic analysis indicated that Enterococcus, Vagococcus, Providencia, and Paenalcaligenes were the active genera that responded to tetracycline. Furthermore, based on the active functional genes that responded to tetracycline pressure, the response mechanisms of BSFL intestinal microbes were speculated as follows: the Tet family that mediates the expression of efflux pumps expel tetracycline out of the microbes, while tetM and tetW release it from the ribosome. Eventually, tetracycline was degraded by deacetylases and novel enzymes. Overall, this study provides novel insights about the active intestinal microbes and their functional genes in insects responding to the high concentration of antibiotics.