Pathogen elimination by probiotic Bacillus via signalling interference

Nature. 2018 Oct;562(7728):532-537. doi: 10.1038/s41586-018-0616-y. Epub 2018 Oct 10.


Probiotic nutrition is frequently claimed to improve human health. In particular, live probiotic bacteria obtained with food are thought to reduce intestinal colonization by pathogens, and thus to reduce susceptibility to infection. However, the mechanisms that underlie these effects remain poorly understood. Here we report that the consumption of probiotic Bacillus bacteria comprehensively abolished colonization by the dangerous pathogen Staphylococcus aureus in a rural Thai population. We show that a widespread class of Bacillus lipopeptides, the fengycins, eliminates S. aureus by inhibiting S. aureus quorum sensing-a process through which bacteria respond to their population density by altering gene regulation. Our study presents a detailed molecular mechanism that underlines the importance of probiotic nutrition in reducing infectious disease. We also provide evidence that supports the biological significance of probiotic bacterial interference in humans, and show that such interference can be achieved by blocking a pathogen's signalling system. Furthermore, our findings suggest a probiotic-based method for S. aureus decolonization and new ways to fight S. aureus infections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacillus / physiology*
  • Female
  • Lipopeptides / biosynthesis
  • Lipopeptides / metabolism
  • Lipopeptides / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Models, Animal
  • Probiotics / pharmacology*
  • Probiotics / therapeutic use
  • Quorum Sensing / drug effects*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Spores, Bacterial / metabolism
  • Staphylococcal Infections / microbiology*
  • Staphylococcal Infections / prevention & control*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / metabolism
  • Staphylococcus aureus / pathogenicity*
  • Thailand


  • Lipopeptides
  • fengycin