Neonatal acquisition of Clostridia species protects against colonization by bacterial pathogens

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Science  21 Apr 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6335, pp. 315-319
DOI: 10.1126/science.aag2029

Gut anaerobes protect against pathogen invasion

Intestinal infections are a common problem for young animals. One explanation is that the protective gut microbiota is not fully established in infants. How the microbiota might protect against pathogens is unclear. Kim et al. found that members of the group of strictly anaerobic, spore-forming bacteria known as clostridia protect neonatal mice against diarrhea-causing pathogens. The protective effect is enhanced by giving mice the metabolite succinate in drinking water. Succinate favors colonization of the neonatal gut by cluster IV and XIVa clostridia and concomitantly excludes Salmonella typhimurium.

Science, this issue p. 315


The high susceptibility of neonates to infections has been assumed to be due to immaturity of the immune system, but the mechanism remains unclear. By colonizing adult germ-free mice with the cecal contents of neonatal and adult mice, we show that the neonatal microbiota is unable to prevent colonization by two bacterial pathogens that cause mortality in neonates. The lack of colonization resistance occurred when Clostridiales were absent in the neonatal microbiota. Administration of Clostridiales, but not Bacteroidales, protected neonatal mice from pathogen infection and abrogated intestinal pathology upon pathogen challenge. Depletion of Clostridiales also abolished colonization resistance in adult mice. The neonatal bacteria enhanced the ability of protective Clostridiales to colonize the gut.

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