Scientists say naturally occurring bacteria could help fight hospital bug Clostridium difficile
A cocktail of naturally occurring bacteria could prove a potent new weapon against the hospital bug Clostridium difficile (C. diff).
Scientists have identified six organisms that suppressed a highly contagious strain of C. diff in mice. Three of the microbes had not been described before.
The research could lead to new ways of treating and preventing C. diff infection without resorting to antibiotics, say the researchers.
The strain studied, known as O27, has been responsible for epidemics in Europe, North America and Australia. It has a long contagious "supershedding" period that is very difficult to treat with antibiotics. During this time, the bug sheds highly resistant spores that contaminate the environment.
C.diff can cause bloating diarrhoea, and abdominal pain, and contributed to more than 2,000 deaths in the UK last year. It lives naturally in the bodies of some people where other gut bacteria hold back its numbers and stop it spreading. Certain antibiotics can destroy these "friendly" bacteria, allowing the gut to be overrun by C. diff.
British scientists conducting the new research found that mice with the O27 strain continually relapsed when treated with antibiotics. But transplanting faecal matter from a healthy mouse into the animals quickly controlled the infection.
Further work identified the faecal bacteria that were restoring the correct microbial balance in the gut. After screening many bacterial combinations, they arrived at a cocktail of six that were most effective.
Professor Harry Flint, a leading member of the team from the University of Aberdeen, said: "The mixture of six bacterial species effectively and reproducibly suppressed the C. difficile supershedder state in mice, restoring the healthy bacterial diversity of the gut."
Analysis of the bacteria's DNA revealed three novel species. The mix is genetically diverse and comes from all four main groups of bacteria found in mammals.
The results are published in the online journal Public Library of Science Pathogens.