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PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e40758. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040758. Epub 2012 Jul 12.

Comprehensive postmortem analyses of intestinal microbiota changes and bacterial translocation in human flora associated mice.

Author information

1
Department of Microbiology and Hygiene, Charité - University Medicine Berlin, Berlin, Germany. markus.heimesaat@charite.de

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Postmortem microbiological examinations are performed in forensic and medical pathology for defining uncertain causes of deaths and for screening of deceased tissue donors. Interpretation of bacteriological data, however, is hampered by false-positive results due to agonal spread of microorganisms, postmortem bacterial translocation, and environmental contamination.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS:

We performed a kinetic survey of naturally occurring postmortem gut flora changes in the small and large intestines of conventional and gnotobiotic mice associated with a human microbiota (hfa) applying cultural and molecular methods. Sacrificed mice were kept under ambient conditions for up to 72 hours postmortem. Intestinal microbiota changes were most pronounced in the ileal lumen where enterobacteria and enterococci increased by 3-5 orders of magnitude in conventional and hfa mice. Interestingly, comparable intestinal overgrowth was shown in acute and chronic intestinal inflammation in mice and men. In hfa mice, ileal overgrowth with enterococci and enterobacteria started 3 and 24 hours postmortem, respectively. Strikingly, intestinal bacteria translocated to extra-intestinal compartments such as mesenteric lymphnodes, spleen, liver, kidney, and cardiac blood as early as 5 min after death. Furthermore, intestinal tissue destruction was characterized by increased numbers of apoptotic cells and neutrophils within 3 hours postmortem, whereas counts of proliferative cells as well as T- and B-lymphocytes and regulatory T-cells decreased between 3 and 12 hours postmortem.

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE:

We conclude that kinetics of ileal overgrowth with enterobacteria and enterococci in hfa mice can be used as an indicator for compromized intestinal functionality and for more precisely defining the time point of death under defined ambient conditions. The rapid translocation of intestinal bacteria starting within a few minutes after death will help to distinguish between relevant bacteria and secondary contaminants thus providing important informations for routine applications and future studies in applied microbiology, forensic pathology, and criminal medicine.

PMID:
22808253
PMCID:
PMC3395637
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0040758
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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