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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2004 Jun;70(6):3575-81.

Characterization of bacterial communities in feces from healthy elderly volunteers and hospitalized elderly patients by using real-time PCR and effects of antibiotic treatment on the fecal microbiota.

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  • 1MRC Microbiology and Gut Biology Group, University of Dundee, Dundee, United Kingdom.


Fecal bacteria were studied in healthy elderly volunteers (age, 63 to 90 years; n = 35) living in the local community, elderly hospitalized patients (age, 66 to 103; n = 38), and elderly hospitalized patients receiving antibiotic treatment (age, 65 to 100; n = 21). Group- and species-specific primer sets targeting 16S rRNA genes were used to quantitate intestinal bacteria by using DNA extracted from feces and real-time PCR. The principal difference between healthy elderly volunteers and both patient cohorts was a marked reduction in the Bacteroides-Prevotella group following hospitalization. Reductions in bifidobacteria, Desulfovibrio spp., Clostridium clostridiiforme, and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii were also found in the hospitalized patients. However, total 16S rRNA gene copy numbers (per gram of wet weight of feces) were generally lower in the stool samples of the two groups of hospitalized patients compared to the number in the stool samples of elderly volunteers living in the community, so the relative abundance (percentage of the group- and species-specific rRNA gene copies in relation to total bacterial rRNA gene copies) of bifidobacteria, Desulfovibrio spp., C. clostridiiforme, and F. prausnitzii did not change. Antibiotic treatment resulted in further reductions in the numbers of bacteria and their prevalence and, in some patients, complete elimination of certain bacterial communities. Conversely, the numbers of enterobacteria increased in the hospitalized patients who did not receive antibiotics, and due to profound changes in fecal microbiotas during antibiotic treatment, the opportunistic species Enterococcus faecalis proliferated.

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