The interplay between microbiome dynamics and pathogen dynamics in a murine model of Clostridium difficile Infection

Gut Microbes. 2011 May-Jun;2(3):145-58. doi: 10.4161/gmic.2.3.16333. Epub 2011 May 1.


Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) arises in the setting of antibiotic administration where disruption of the normal indigenous gut microbiota leads to susceptibility to C. difficile colonization and colitis. Using a murine model of CDI, we demonstrate that changes in the community structure of the indigenous gut microbiota are associated with the loss of colonization resistance against C. difficile. Several antibiotic regimens were tested in combination for the ability to overcome colonization resistance, including a five antibiotic cocktail consisting of kanamycin, gentamicin, colistin, metronidazole, and vancomycin administered in drinking water for three days, a single intraperitoneal dose of clindamycin or 10 days of cefoperazone in drinking water. Following antibiotic treatment animals were challenged with 105 colony forming units of C. difficile strain VPI 10463 via oral gavage. Animals that received the antibiotic cocktail and clindamycin prior to C. difficile challenge followed one of two clinical courses, either becoming clinically ill and moribund within 2-4 days post challenge, or remaining clinically well. Animals that became clinically ill developed histologically severe colitis. These histopathologic findings were significantly less severe in animals that remained clinically well. Analysis of 16S rRNA gene sequences retrieved from gut tissue at necropsy demonstrated that Proteobacteria dominated the gut microbiota in clinically ill animals. In contrast, the gut microbial community of clinically well animals more closely resembled untreated animals, which were dominated by members of the Firmicutes. All animals that received cefoperazone treatment prior to C. difficile challenge were clinically ill and moribund by 2-5 days post challenge in a dose dependent manner. The gut communities in these animals were dominated by C.difficile suggesting that cefoperazone treatment resulted in a greater loss in colonization resistance. Thus, the severity of colitis that arises in this system reflects the interplay between the expansion of C. difficile in the gut community and the ecologic dynamics of the indigenous microbial community as it recovers from antibiotic perturbation. We demonstrate that altering the balance of these two opposing processes alters clinical outcome and thus may lead to novel preventative and therapeutic approaches for CDI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Clostridioides difficile / drug effects
  • Clostridioides difficile / genetics*
  • Clostridioides difficile / isolation & purification
  • Clostridioides difficile / physiology
  • Clostridium Infections / microbiology*
  • Colitis / microbiology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / drug effects
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Metagenome* / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents