Pathological imbalances within the intestinal microbiota, termed dysbiosis, are often associated with chronic Clostridium difficile infections in humans.
Clostridium difficile is a menace in hospitals and nursing homes, causing several thousands of deaths a year. Antibiotics can temporarily knock down the bacterium, but about 25% of infected people relapse, often multiple times, because the germ produces spores that hand sanitizers and hand washing don’t kill. Antibiotics can also backfire because they kill the gut’s normal microbial community, clearing the way for C. difficile to resettle.
Microbiologist Trevor Lawley of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, U.K., and his colleagues examined Clostridium infection in mice. Lawley and his colleagues first demonstrated that the germ’s spores do lead to recurrences of the infection after antibiotic treatment and that fecal therapy cures the problem.
They then cultured the fecal material used to cure the mice, isolating 18 types of bacteria. Finally, they began to mix and match, infecting mice with different combinations of the bacteria. Of the various combinations tried, only one, a mix of six very different kinds of bacteria, cured the mice.
The study was reported online in PLoS Pathogens.
“It is an excellent, ground-breaking paper,” says Brendan Wren, a microbiologist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine who was not involved with the mouse study. He is now working with Trawley to determine if they can find an appropriate bacterial cocktail that will cure humans. If they succeed, Wren says, someday “a simple suppository of the bacteria could prevent C. difficile reinfection and obviate the need for antibiotics, which may exacerbate the problem.”
Note: Some physicians have been successfully treating patients for C. difficile with ground-up, filtered fecal material inserted into the stomach with a tube, not via an enema.
TGI has no financial interest in sharing this work.
- New research highlights changing epidemiology of Clostridium difficile (eurekalert.org)
- ‘Faecal bugs’ treat C. difficile (bbc.co.uk)
- Using Gut Bacteria to Fight Diarrhea (news.sciencemag.org)
- Researchers develop cocktail of bacteria that eradicates Clostridium difficile infection (medicalxpress.com)
- Gut Bacteria Cocktail May End Need for Fecal Transplants (science.slashdot.org)
- Bacteria cocktail could battle C. Diff (news.com.au)
- Modeling the Role of Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor γ and MicroRNA-146 in Mucosal Immune Responses to Clostridium difficile (plosone.org)
- Fecal Transplants for C. Diff: Now on the Agenda (health.usnews.com)
- Little-known fecal transplant cures woman’s bacterial infection (cnn.com)
- Clostridium difficile superbug vaccine could be taken as pill (telegraph.co.uk)