Discerning the complexity of community interactions using a Drosophila model of polymicrobial infections

PLoS Pathog. 2008 Oct;4(10):e1000184. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1000184. Epub 2008 Oct 24.


A number of human infections are characterized by the presence of more than one bacterial species and are defined as polymicrobial diseases. Methods for the analysis of the complex biological interactions in mixed infections with a large number of microorganisms are limited and do not effectively determine the contribution of each bacterial species to the pathogenesis of the polymicrobial community. We have developed a novel Drosophila melanogaster infection model to study microbe-microbe interactions and polymicrobe-host interactions. Using this infection model, we examined the interaction of 40 oropharyngeal isolates with Pseudomonas aeruginosa. We observe three classes of microorganisms, one of which acts synergistically with the principal pathogen, while being avirulent or even beneficial on its own. This synergy involves microbe-microbe interactions that result in the modulation of P. aeruginosa virulence factor gene expression within infected Drosophila. The host innate immune response to these natural-route polymicrobial infections is complex and characterized by additive, suppressive, and synergistic transcriptional activation of antimicrobial peptide genes. The polymicrobial infection model was used to differentiate the bacterial flora in cystic fibrosis (CF) sputum, revealing that a large proportion of the organisms in CF airways has the ability to influence the outcome of an infection when in combination with the principal CF pathogen P. aeruginosa.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibiosis / physiology
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Drosophila / immunology
  • Drosophila / microbiology*
  • Drosophila / physiology
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / physiology*
  • Immunity, Innate / genetics
  • Immunity, Innate / physiology
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Neisseriaceae Infections / microbiology
  • Neisseriaceae Infections / mortality
  • Neisseriaceae Infections / pathology
  • Pseudomonas Infections / microbiology
  • Pseudomonas Infections / mortality
  • Pseudomonas Infections / pathology
  • Pseudomonas Infections / physiopathology
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / growth & development
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / pathogenicity
  • Streptococcal Infections / microbiology
  • Streptococcal Infections / mortality
  • Streptococcal Infections / pathology
  • Superinfection / microbiology*
  • Superinfection / mortality
  • Superinfection / pathology
  • Superinfection / physiopathology*
  • Survival Analysis