Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Bioinformatics & Computational Biology

First Advisor

Master of Arts (MA)


Microbial communities of bacteria, viruses, and fungi form complex interactions in nature. However, our understanding of these communities is limited to those that can be cultured in the lab. Enhanced culture methods have enabled the isolation of numerous fastidious species from urinary tract, definitively proving that the urinary tract of asymptomatic individuals is not sterile. In working with these isolates, our group has observed several instances in which a “purified” isolate actually harbors more than one species. We refer to these additional members as bacterial hitchhikers, a term previously used to describe similar occurrences in soil communities. I hypothesized that under a given culture condition, these bacterial hitchhikers would proliferate such that they could be isolated. Here, I focus on identifying biological hitchhikers in the urinary microbiota and investigating why these bacteria may hitchhike. First, I sequenced and identified the species of bacteria present in our samples using 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Next, I observed frequently co-occurring species and assessed the fitness of strains grown in isolation as well as strains grown in co-culture with other species. Finally, I examined the metabolic profiles from bacterial genomes of a given participant’s urine sample. By understanding complex interactions in the urobiome, researchers will understand the challenges of manipulating a microbial community.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.