Identification of Clostridioides difficile-Inhibiting Gut Commensals Using Culturomics, Phenotyping, and Combinatorial Community Assembly

mSystems. 2020 Feb 4;5(1):e00620-19. doi: 10.1128/mSystems.00620-19.


A major function of the gut microbiota is to provide colonization resistance, wherein pathogens are inhibited or suppressed below infectious levels. However, the fraction of gut microbiota required for colonization resistance remains unclear. We used culturomics to isolate a gut microbiota culture collection comprising 1,590 isolates belonging to 102 species. This culture collection represents 34.57% of the taxonomic diversity and 70% functional capacity, as estimated by metagenomic sequencing of the fecal samples used for culture. Using whole-genome sequencing, we characterized species representatives from this collection and predicted their phenotypic traits, further characterizing isolates by defining nutrient utilization profiles and short-chain fatty acid production. When screened with a coculture assay, 66 species in our culture collection inhibited Clostridioides difficile Several phenotypes, particularly, growth rate, production of SCFAs, and the utilization of mannitol, sorbitol, or succinate, correlated with C. difficile inhibition. We used a combinatorial community assembly approach to formulate defined bacterial mixes inhibitory to C. difficile We tested 256 combinations and found that both species composition and blend size were important in inhibition. Our results show that the interaction of bacteria with one another in a mix and with other members of gut commensals must be investigated to design defined bacterial mixes for inhibiting C. difficile in vivo IMPORTANCE Antibiotic treatment causes instability of gut microbiota and the loss of colonization resistance, thus allowing pathogens such as Clostridioides difficile to colonize and causing recurrent infection and mortality. Although fecal microbiome transplantation has been shown to be an effective treatment for C. difficile infection (CDI), a more desirable approach would be the use of a defined mix of inhibitory gut bacteria. The C. difficile-inhibiting species and bacterial combinations identified herein improve the understanding of the ecological interactions controlling colonization resistance against C. difficile and could aid in the design of defined bacteriotherapy as a nonantibiotic alternative against CDI.

Keywords: Clostridium difficile; coculture; colonization resistance; culturomics; fatty acids; metagenomics; microbiome; nutrient competition; pathogen inhibition; phenotypic identification.