Antagonistic effect of Lactobacillus strains against gas-producing coliforms isolated from colicky infants

BMC Microbiol. 2011 Jun 30;11:157. doi: 10.1186/1471-2180-11-157.


Background: Infantile colic is a common disturb within the first 3 months of life, nevertheless the pathogenesis is incompletely understood and treatment remains an open issue. Intestinal gas production is thought to be one of the causes of abdominal discomfort in infants suffering from colic. However, data about the role of the amount of gas produced by infants' colonic microbiota and the correlation with the onset of colic symptoms are scanty. The benefit of supplementation with lactobacilli been recently reported but the mechanisms by which they exert their effects have not yet been fully defined. This study was performed to evaluate the interaction between Lactobacillus spp. strains and gas-forming coliforms isolated from stools of colicky infants.

Results: Strains of coliforms were isolated from stools of 45 colicky and 42 control breastfed infants in McConkey Agar and identified using PCR with species-specific primers, and the BBL™ Enterotube™ II system for Enterobacteriaceae. Gas-forming capability of coliforms was assessed in liquid cultures containing lactose as sole carbon source. The average count of total coliforms in colicky infants was significantly higher than controls: 5.98 (2.00-8.76) log10 vs 3.90 (2.50-7.10) CFU/g of faeces (p = 0.015). The following strains were identified: Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Klebsiella oxytoca, Enterobacter aerogenes, Enterobacter cloacae and Enterococcus faecalis. Then, 27 Lactobacillus strains were tested for their antagonistic effect against coliforms both by halo-forming method and in liquid co-cultures. Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. delbrueckii DSM 20074 and L. plantarum MB 456 were able to inhibit all coliforms strains (halo-forming method), also in liquid co-cultures, thus demonstrating an antagonistic activity.

Conclusions: This study shows that two out of 27 strains of Lactobacillus examined possess an antimicrobial effect against six species of gas-forming coliforms isolated from colicky infants. Our findings may stimulate new researches to identify which Lactobacillus strains can improve colicky symptoms by acting on coliforms gut colonization.

MeSH terms

  • Antibiosis*
  • Colic / microbiology*
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Enterobacteriaceae / isolation & purification
  • Enterobacteriaceae / physiology*
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Female
  • Gases / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lactobacillus / physiology*
  • Male


  • Gases