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PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e53969. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053969. Epub 2013 Jan 11.

Modulation of systemic immune responses through commensal gastrointestinal microbiota.

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Department of Animal Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois, United States of America.


Colonization of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is initiated during birth and continually seeded from the individual's environment. Gastrointestinal microorganisms play a central role in developing and modulating host immune responses and have been the subject of investigation over the last decades. Animal studies have demonstrated the impact of GI tract microbiota on local gastrointestinal immune responses; however, the full spectrum of action of early gastrointestinal tract stimulation and subsequent modulation of systemic immune responses is poorly understood. This study explored the utility of an oral microbial inoculum as a therapeutic tool to affect porcine systemic immune responses. For this study a litter of 12 pigs was split into two groups. One group of pigs was inoculated with a non-pathogenic oral inoculum (modulated), while another group (control) was not. DNA extracted from nasal swabs and fecal samples collected throughout the study was sequenced to determine the effects of the oral inoculation on GI and respiratory microbial communities. The effects of GI microbial modulation on systemic immune responses were evaluated by experimentally infecting with the pathogen Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae. Coughing levels, pathology, toll-like receptors 2 and 6, and cytokine production were measured throughout the study. Sequencing results show a successful modulation of the GI and respiratory microbiomes through oral inoculation. Delayed type hypersensitivity responses were stronger (p = 0.07), and the average coughing levels and respiratory TNF-α variance were significantly lower in the modulated group (p<0.0001 and p = 0.0153, respectively). The M. hyopneumoniae infection study showed beneficial effects of the oral inoculum on systemic immune responses including antibody production, severity of infection and cytokine levels. These results suggest that an oral microbial inoculation can be used to modulate microbial communities, as well as have a beneficial effect on systemic immune responses as demonstrated with M. hyopneumoniae infection.

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