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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2003 Apr;69(4):1920-7.

Nondigestible oligosaccharides enhance bacterial colonization resistance against Clostridium difficile in vitro.

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Department of Molecular and Cellular Pathology, University of Dundee, United Kingdom.


Clostridium difficile is the principal etiologic agent of pseudomembranous colitis and is a major cause of nosocomial antibiotic-associated diarrhea. A limited degree of success in controlling C. difficile infection has been achieved by using probiotics; however, prebiotics can also be used to change bacterial community structure and metabolism in the large gut, although the effects of these carbohydrates on suppression of clostridial pathogens have not been well characterized. The aims of this study were to investigate the bifidogenicity of three nondigestible oligosaccharide (NDO) preparations in normal and antibiotic-treated fecal microbiotas in vitro and their abilities to increase barrier resistance against colonization by C. difficile by using cultural and molecular techniques. Fecal cultures from three healthy volunteers were challenged with a toxigenic strain of C. difficile, and molecular probes were used to monitor growth of the pathogen, together with growth of bifidobacterial and bacteroides populations, over a time course. Evidence of colonization resistance was assessed by determining viable bacterial counts, short-chain fatty acid formation, and cytotoxic activity. Chemostat studies were then performed to determine whether there was a direct correlation between bifidobacteria and C. difficile suppression. NDO were shown to stimulate bifidobacterial growth, and there were concomitant reductions in C. difficile populations. However, in the presence of clindamycin, activity against bifidobacteria was augmented in the presence of NDO, resulting in a further loss of colonization resistance. In the absence of clindamycin, NDO enhanced colonization resistance against C. difficile, although this could not be attributed to bifidobacterium-induced inhibitory phenomena.

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