Do healthy gut bacteria protect against antibiotic-resistant bacteria?

A – healthy – intestinal flora (that is, all micro-organisms (including bacteria) in our intestines) is important for our health. They protect us against infectious pathogens and produce useful substances, such as certain vitamins. If the normal intestinal flora is disrupted, pathogenic bacteria can grow and affect health.

The Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC Leiden University Medical Center), the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and the Amsterdam Medical Center (AMC Academic Medical Center) have investigated whether the composition of the intestinal flora protects against the acquisition and nesting of antibiotic-resistant Escherichia. coli bacteria in the gut. The research was conducted among participants in the PIENTER project. This RIVM project is about how well the Dutch are protected against infectious diseases and whether this changes over time. Thousands of people participate in the study, who fill out an extensive questionnaire and make material such as stool available.

The results of the study have been published in The Lancet Microbe.

The discovery

“Our research shows that the intestinal flora of people in which an antibiotic-resistant Escherichia coli is present does not differ from the composition of the intestinal flora of people without this resistant bacteria. This may mean that probiotics, which are made on the basis of healthy bacteria, will not help to combat the antibiotic-resistant E.coli bacteria,” says Quinten Ducarmon, researcher at the LUMC. An important discovery because antibiotic-resistant bacteria lead to thousands of deaths every year.

Previous studies

Ed Kuijper, professor of Experimental Bacteriology at the LUMC and associated with RIVM as a microbiological expert: “The results were striking because previous studies have shown that some bacterial species in the gut may be able to prevent antibiotic-resistant bacteria from settling there”.

According to him, the researchers in those studies did not take into account, for example, lifestyle, origin, other diseases or drug use that could influence the acquisition of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the composition of the intestinal flora. Quinten Ducarmon: “Most studies focus on the type of bacteria and not so much on what they do and which substances they produce. We have included this in our research and our conclusion is that the composition and function of the microbiome has no influence. for the presence of antibiotic-resistant E. coli Escherichia coli bacteria in the gut.

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