Gut microbiota-mediated protection against diarrheal infections

J Travel Med. 2017 Apr 1;24(suppl_1):S39-S43. doi: 10.1093/jtm/taw086.


Background: The mammalian gut microbiota is a highly abundant and diverse microbial community that resides in the gastrointestinal tract. One major benefit that the gut microbiota provides to its host is colonization resistance-the ability to prevent colonization by foreign microbes, including diarrheal pathogens such as Clostridium difficile , Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium and diarrheagenic Escherichia coli .

Methods: We conducted a literature review of the effects of the gut microbiota on infection by diarrheal pathogens. We used PubMed to search for relevant articles published before July 2016, as well as incorporated data from our laboratory.

Results: The gut microbiota provides protection from diarrheal infections both by direct inhibition of pathogens and by indirect effects on host functions. Direct effects of the microbiota on diarrheal pathogens include competing for nutrients and producing metabolites that inhibit pathogen growth or virulence. Indirect effects of the gut microbiota include promoting maintenance of the gut mucosal barrier and stimulating innate and adaptive immunity.

Conclusions: Human epidemiological studies and experimental infections of laboratory animals both demonstrate that antibiotic treatment can alter the gut microbial community and thereby reduce colonization resistance against diarrheal pathogens. Further research might lead to the development of next-generation probiotics that could be used to bolster colonization resistance and thus prevent travellers' diarrheal.

Keywords: antibiotics; bacterial pathogens; diarrhea; gut microbiota.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diarrhea / microbiology
  • Diarrhea / prevention & control*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology
  • Travel*