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Mucosal Immunol. 2009 Mar;2(2):166-72. doi: 10.1038/mi.2008.77. Epub 2008 Nov 26.

Probiotic E. coli treatment mediates antimicrobial human beta-defensin synthesis and fecal excretion in humans.

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Dr Margarete Fischer-Bosch-Institute of Clinical Pharmacology and University of Tübingen, Stuttgart, Germany.


Inducible epithelial human beta-defensins (hBD) play an important role in intestinal barrier function. In vitro studies showed that clinically effective probiotics induce antimicrobial hBD-2. Here, we aimed to assess the in vivo effect in healthy volunteers and also addressed how defensins affect probiotic survival. Symbioflor 2 containing one strain of several viable genotypes of Escherichia coli was administered to 23 healthy individuals. After 3 weeks, fecal hBD-2 peptide was increased in 78% (mean 3.7-fold; P<0.0001). Interestingly, the fecal hBD-2 peptide was still elevated 9 weeks after treatment (P=0.008). In vitro studies revealed that this effect was mediated by only one out of three tested E. coli genotypes and comparable to probiotic E. coli Nissle 1917 (10- to 15-fold). Functional assays showed that all tested bacteria were similarly killed by defensins allowing to speculate about a suicidal character of this effect. Defensin induction seems to be a common and important mechanism of probiotic treatment.

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