Non-Digestible Oligosaccharides and Short Chain Fatty Acids as Therapeutic Targets against Enterotoxin-Producing Bacteria and Their Toxins

Toxins (Basel). 2021 Feb 25;13(3):175. doi: 10.3390/toxins13030175.


Enterotoxin-producing bacteria (EPB) have developed multiple mechanisms to disrupt gut homeostasis, and provoke various pathologies. A major part of bacterial cytotoxicity is attributed to the secretion of virulence factors, including enterotoxins. Depending on their structure and mode of action, enterotoxins intrude the intestinal epithelium causing long-term consequences such as hemorrhagic colitis. Multiple non-digestible oligosaccharides (NDOs), and short chain fatty acids (SCFA), as their metabolites produced by the gut microbiota, interact with enteropathogens and their toxins, which may result in the inhibition of the bacterial pathogenicity. NDOs characterized by diverse structural characteristics, block the pathogenicity of EPB either directly, by inhibiting bacterial adherence and growth, or biofilm formation or indirectly, by promoting gut microbiota. Apart from these abilities, NDOs and SCFA can interact with enterotoxins and reduce their cytotoxicity. These anti-virulent effects mostly rely on their ability to mimic the structure of toxin receptors and thus inhibiting toxin adherence to host cells. This review focuses on the strategies of EPB and related enterotoxins to impair host cell immunity, discusses the anti-pathogenic properties of NDOs and SCFA on EPB functions and provides insight into the potential use of NDOs and SCFA as effective agents to fight against enterotoxins.

Keywords: enteropathogenic bacteria; enterotoxins; oligosaccharides; short chain fatty acids.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Bacteria / pathogenicity
  • Bacterial Infections / diet therapy*
  • Bacterial Infections / metabolism
  • Bacterial Infections / microbiology
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / metabolism
  • Digestion
  • Enterotoxins / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids / administration & dosage*
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Oligosaccharides / administration & dosage*
  • Oligosaccharides / metabolism
  • Virulence


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Enterotoxins
  • Fatty Acids
  • Oligosaccharides