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Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 1988 Feb;7(1):98-102.

Colonization resistance of the human intestinal microflora: testing the hypothesis in normal volunteers.

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Department of Community Health, Tufts-New England Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts.


Colonization resistance is the mechanism whereby the intestinal microflora protects itself against incursion by new and often harmful microorganisms. Some authors have claimed that colonization resistance is related to the integrity of the anaerobic flora, but this point has not been established in humans. In previous studies in our laboratory cefoxitin, piperacillin, cefoperazone or aztreonam were administered intravenously to healthy volunteers in order to study changes in the intestinal flora and acquisition of new strains. Seven of 16 antibiotic-treated subjects were colonized with gram-negative bacilli, but no correlation was observed between this colonization and the suppression of either anaerobes or any other component of the fecal flora. Marked strains of Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa were also administered by mouth in order to test acquisition of new bacteria. The fed bacteria were found in the stools of both antibiotic-treated and control subjects; the antibiotics had no apparent influence on the ability of these strains to colonize the intestinal tract. Our work, along with findings of others, supports the concept that colonization resistance occurs in humans and is diminished by antibiotic administration. However, it does not support the hypothesis that colonization resistance is related to the anaerobic microflora.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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