The Intestinal Microbiota as a Reservoir and a Therapeutic Target to Fight Multi-Drug-Resistant Bacteria: A Narrative Review of the Literature

Infect Dis Ther. 2019 Dec;8(4):469-482. doi: 10.1007/s40121-019-00272-7. Epub 2019 Oct 25.


The appearance and dissemination of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, particularly in specific closed environments such as intensive care units of acute care hospitals, have become a major health concern. The intestinal microbiota has various functions including host protection from overgrowth or colonization by unwanted bacteria. The exposure to antibiotics significantly reduces the bacterial density of intestinal microbiota leaving an ecologic void that can be occupied by potentially pathogenic and/or resistant bacteria frequently present in hospital settings. Consequently, the intestinal microbiota of inpatients acts as a major reservoir and plays a critical role in perpetuating the spread of resistant bacteria. There are novel innovative methods to protect the host microbiota during antibiotic treatment, but they do not offer a solution for already established colonization by resistant microorganisms. Fecal microbiota transfer (FMT) is a promising intervention to achieve this goal; however, controlled trials report lower success rates than initial retrospective studies, especially in case of gram negatives. The aim of the present article is to highlight the importance of the intestinal microbiota in the global spread of multi-drug-resistant (MDR) microorganisms and to review the recent advances to protect the human microbiota from the action of antibiotics as well as a critical discussion about the evidence of decolonization of MDR microorganisms by FMT.

Keywords: Decolonization; Fecal microbiota transfer (FMT); Fecal microbiota transplant; Intestinal microbiota; Multi-drug-resistant (MDRO) bacteria; Reservoir.

Publication types

  • Review