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PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e36917. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0036917. Epub 2012 May 18.

Adhesion forces and coaggregation between vaginal staphylococci and lactobacilli.

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Human Microbiology and Probiotics, Lawson Health Research Institute, London, Ontario, Canada.


Urogenital infections are the most common ailments afflicting women. They are treated with dated antimicrobials whose efficacy is diminishing. The process of infection involves pathogen adhesion and displacement of indigenous Lactobacillus crispatus and Lactobacillus jensenii. An alternative therapeutic approach to antimicrobial therapy is to reestablish lactobacilli in this microbiome through probiotic administration. We hypothesized that lactobacilli displaying strong adhesion forces with pathogens would facilitate coaggregation between the two strains, ultimately explaining the elimination of pathogens seen in vivo. Using atomic force microscopy, we found that adhesion forces between lactobacilli and three virulent toxic shock syndrome toxin 1-producing Staphylococcus aureus strains, were significantly stronger (2.2-6.4 nN) than between staphylococcal pairs (2.2-3.4 nN), especially for the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14 (4.0-6.4 nN) after 120 s of bond-strengthening. Moreover, stronger adhesion forces resulted in significantly larger coaggregates. Adhesion between the bacteria occurred instantly upon contact and matured within one to two minutes, demonstrating the potential for rapid anti-pathogen effects using a probiotic. Coaggregation is one of the recognized mechanisms through which lactobacilli can exert their probiotic effects to create a hostile micro-environment around a pathogen. With antimicrobial options fading, it therewith becomes increasingly important to identify lactobacilli that bind strongly with pathogens.

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