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article imageScientists discover how C. diff disrupts the human gut

By Tim Sandle     Feb 24, 2015 in Science
Scientists have determined how Clostridium difficile causes harm in the guts of animals and people in a relatively short time frame. It is hoped that the findings will help treat severe diarrhea in patients.
Researchers have been examining how Clostridium difficile damages the intensities of animals and the speed at which this process happens. To examine this, C. difficile endospores were introduced into mice orally (to mimic how an infection may occur within the hospital setting.)
The symptoms of a C. difficile infection can range from mild to severe and include: diarrhoea; a high temperature (fever) and painful abdominal cramps. The causative bacterium is very hardy and it can survive conditions hostile to many other bacteria by transforming into bacterial spores (“endospores.”) It is noteworthy that C. difficile is one of the hospital "super-bugs" of concern.
Once the bacteria had been introduced, the microbiologists examined what was happening. This was assessed by removing gut samples from the mice at set time points. This showed that less than 24 hours was required for C. difficile to transform from inactive endospores to a toxin-producing vegetative cells. The bacteria also gravitated into the large intestine within this time period. Some 100 spores were put into the mice and within 24 hours there were 1,000 viable bacterial cells in the intestinal tract. The strain of C. difficile bacteria used in the study was isolated from a patient.
The research revealed that the process was triggered by bile acids which serve to “wake up” the bacterial spores from the dormant state. Where antibiotics are taken, this process is accelerated because there are fewer competing bacteria in the gut to slow down the rate of growth of the pathogen.
Interestingly, as part of the complete cycle, once in the large intestine C. difficile bacterial cells once again formed spores so that they could survive the exit from the body in feces and potentially infect a new host.
The findings have been published in the journal Infection and Immunity. The research paper is titled “Dynamics and Establishment of Clostridium difficile Infection in the Murine Gastrointestinal Tract.”
In related news, several patients with recurring bacterial infections caused by Clostridium difficile have found relief from diarrhea by ingesting frozen fecal matter from healthy volunteers. In another study, highly specific antibodies derived from llamas may provide a new method for controlling deadly infections from the opportunistic bacterial pathogen Clostridium difficile, according to a new report.
More about Clostridium difficile, Bacteria, Gut, intenstines, c diff
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