"The results of our study are exciting because they show how it might be possible to take antibiotics without suffering from the loss of your colonic microbiome and then becoming colonized by virulent pathogens," says Stiefel. For example, beta-lactamase enzymes could be given orally as drugs, to protect the gut bacteria from systemic antibiotics. Alternatively, as with the mice, patients' GI tracts might be populated with antibiotic-degrading bacteria.
One weakness of the strategy is that while it could protect against acquiring a GI infection, C. difficile, for example, it could not be used to combat such an infection.
"The recognition of the importance of an intact and diverse microbiome has probably best been demonstrated by the successful treatment of Clostridium difficile colitis by fecal microbiota transplantation, or 'stool transplant,'" says Stiefel. "If you have an intact intestinal microbiome, you simply are going to be resistant to acquiring many types of infection."
"If we can find ways to preserve the microbiome in hospitalized patients who are receiving antibiotics, we are on our way to preventing a large proportion of hospital-acquired infections," says Stiefel.
|Contact: Jim Sliwa|
American Society for Microbiology