A study has shown that with the help of the natural intestinal flora, gastrointestinal infections can be reduced after antibiotic treatments. (Image: Alex / stock.adobe.com)
Fight infections by intestinal bacteria
Antibiotics are essential drugs in the fight against various infectious diseases caused by bacteria, but treatment with such drugs is usually associated with unwanted side effects. Gastrointestinal infections often occur. Researchers have now investigated whether such infections can be prevented using the natural gut flora.
According to a recent announcement, an international research team led by David Berry from the Center for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science at the University of Vienna investigated whether gastrointestinal infections (Clostridioides difficile) after antibiotic treatments can be prevented at the helps the natural intestinal flora. Microbiologists have found that gut bacteria can weaken the infection. The results were published in the journal “Nature Communications”.
Side effects of antibiotic treatments
Infectious diseases caused by bacteria can be treated effectively with antibiotics. In general, the drugs are well tolerated, but unwanted side effects can also occur. After antibiotic treatments, gastrointestinal infections often occur, because the natural intestinal flora, which if intact also provides protection against pathogens, is disturbed. One possible strategy to prevent such infections is to administer beneficial gut microbes in the form of a probiotic. However, targeted research is needed here to understand the underlying mechanisms. This is the only way to develop probiotics suitable for the infection.
Healthy intestinal flora protects against infections
The human body is densely populated with microbes, the majority of which live in the gastrointestinal tract and form the so-called intestinal flora there. It plays an important role in human health. The beneficial microorganisms usually found in a healthy gut, called “commensal” microorganisms, can protect us from, among other things, infections caused by harmful microbes, ie pathogens. Because healthy gut flora directly competes with pathogens for energy resources in the gut, it can prevent the growth of harmful microbes.
Prevent the growth of certain bacteria
However, some medications, such as antibiotics or immunosuppressants, can also disrupt or even kill commensal microbes as a side effect. In this case, the pathogens can proliferate – this results in infections or diseases. Clostridioides difficile bacteria are the leading cause of gastrointestinal infections in industrialized countries after antibiotic treatments, according to the announcement. Researchers are therefore looking for commensal microorganisms that prevent the growth of C. difficile in the intestine from the start.
Same source of energy
In order to understand which commensal gut microbes play a key role here, a team of researchers from the Center for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Sciences and the Faculty of Chemistry at the University of Vienna, ETH Zurich and the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research UFZ under the leadership of David Berry identified commensal microbes that feed on the same sugars in the intestinal lining that provide C. difficile for energy.
Different microorganisms identified
To determine the microorganisms, the scientists used heavy water, which the microbes ingested with the sugars examined. The organisms thus marked were then sorted and examined using so-called Raman microspectroscopy in connection with cell sorting by optofluidics and using high resolution mass spectrometry. Using this method, the research team were able to identify a total of 51 different commensal microorganisms that process the same sugars in the intestinal lining as Clostridioides difficile.
The infection may be weakened
Then, using tests on mice, the researchers examined whether a mixture of five of these identified commensal microorganisms could prevent infection with C. difficile. It turned out that adding the identified microbes could not completely prevent C. difficile infection, but could reduce it. “C. difficile can probably also obtain energy from alternative sources and thus establish itself in the gut. The key to ultimately preventing infection potentially lies in a more complex mixture of commensal gut microbes. A mixture that contains additional organisms that compete with C. difficile for these alternative energy sources. More research is needed to clarify this, “says lead author Fatima Pereira of the Center for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science. d)
Author and source information
This text complies with the requirements of specialized medical literature, medical directives and ongoing studies and has been verified by healthcare professionals.
University of Vienna: Fighting infections with intestinal flora, (consulted on 10.10.2020), University of Vienna Fátima C. Pereira, Kenneth Wasmund, Iva Cobankovic, Nico Jehmlich, Craig W. Herbold, Kang Soo Lee, Barbara Sziranyi, Cornelia Vesely, Thomas Decker, Roman Stocker, Benedikt Warth, Martin von Bergen, Michael Wagner and David Berry: The Rational Design of a Microbial Consortium of Mucosugar Users Reduces Colonization by Clostridiodes difficile; in: Nature Communications, (published: October 9, 2020), Nature Communications
This article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. It cannot replace a visit to the doctor.