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  • Author or Editor: Markus M. Heimesaat x
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This review elaborates the development of germfree and gnotobiotic animal models and their application in the scientific field to unravel mechanisms underlying host—microbe interactions and distinct diseases. Strictly germfree animals are raised in isolators and not colonized by any organism at all. The germfree state is continuously maintained by birth, raising, housing and breeding under strict sterile conditions. However, isolator raised germfree mice are exposed to a stressful environment and exert an underdeveloped immune system. To circumvent these physiological disadvantages depletion of the bacterial microbiota in conventionally raised and housed mice by antibiotic treatment has become an alternative approach. While fungi and parasites are not affected by antibiosis, the bacterial microbiota in these “secondary abiotic mice” have been shown to be virtually eradicated. Recolonization of isolator raised germfree animals or secondary abiotic mice results in a gnotobiotic state. Both, germfree and gnotobiotic mice have been successfully used to investigate biological functions of the conventional microbiota in health and disease. Particularly for the development of novel clinical applications germfree mice are widely used tools, as summarized in this review further focusing on the modulation of bacterial microbiota in laboratory mice to better mimic conditions in the human host.

Open access

Antimicrobial multidrug-resistance (MDR) constitutes an emerging threat to global health and makes the effective prevention and treatment of many, particularly severe infections challenging, if not impossible. Many antibiotic classes have lost antimicrobial efficacy against a plethora of infectious agents including bacterial species due to microbial acquisition of distinct resistance genes. Hence, the development of novel anti-infectious intervention strategies including antibiotic-independent approaches is urgently needed. Vitamins such as vitamin D and vitamin D derivates might be such promising molecular candidates to combat infections caused by bacteria including MDR strains. Using the Pubmed database, we therefore performed an in-depth literature survey, searching for publications on the antimicrobial effect of vitamin D directed against bacteria including MDR strains. In vitro and clinical studies between 2009 and 2019 revealed that vitamin D does, in fact, possess antimicrobial properties against both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacterial species, whereas conflicting results could be obtained from in vivo studies. Taken together, the potential anti-infectious effects for the antibiotic-independent application of vitamin D and/or an adjunct therapy in combination with antibiotic compounds directed against infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, H. pylori infections, or skin diseases, for instance, should be considered and further investigated in more detail.

Open access

Intestinal carriage of multi-drug resistant (MDR) Gram-negative bacteria including Pseudomonas aeruginosa (Psae) constitutes a pivotal prerequisite for subsequent fatal endogenous infections in patients at risk. We here addressed whether fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) could effectively combat MDR-Psae carriage. Therefore, secondary abiotic mice were challenged with MDR-Psae by gavage. One week later, mice were subjected to peroral FMT from either murine or human donors on 3 consecutive days. Irrespective of murine or human origin of fecal transplant, intestinal MDR-Psae loads decreased as early as 24 h after the initial FMT. Remarkably, the murine FMT could lower intestinal MDR-Psae burdens by approximately 4 log orders of magnitude within 1 week. In another intervention study, mice harboring a human gut microbiota were perorally challenged with MDR-Psae and subjected to murine FMT on 3 consecutive days, 1 week later. Strikingly, within 5 days, murine FMT resulted in lower loads and carrier rates of MDR-Psae in mice with a human gut microbiota. In conclusion, FMT might be a promising antibiotics-independent option to combat intestinal MDR-Psae carriage and thus prevent from future endogenous infections of patients at risk.

Open access

Humans have lost their vitamin C-synthesizing capacities during evolution. Therefore, the uptake of this essential compound from external sources is mandatory in order to prevent vitamin C-deficient conditions resulting in severe morbidities such as scurvy. The potent antioxidant, immunomodulatory, and antiinfectious effects of vitamin C are known since the 1930s. We here (i) review the impact of vitamin C on innate and adaptive immune functions, (ii) provide an overview of its antimicrobial, antibacterial, antiviral, antiparasitic, and antifungal properties, and finally, (iii) discuss vitamin C as an adjunct treatment option for the combat of human infections by bacteria, particularly by emerging multidrug-resistant species.

Open access

Abstract

The physiological colonization resistance exerted by the murine gut microbiota prevents conventional mice from Campylobacter jejuni infection. In the present study we addressed whether this also held true for Campylobacter coli. Following peroral application, C. coli as opposed to C. jejuni could stably establish within the gastrointestinal tract of conventionally colonized mice until 3 weeks post-challenge. Neither before nor after either Campylobacter application any changes in the gut microbiota composition could be observed. C. coli, but not C. jejuni challenge was associated with pronounced regenerative, but not apoptotic responses in colonic epithelia. At day 21 following C. coli versus C. jejuni application mice exhibited higher numbers of adaptive immune cells including T-lymphocytes and regulatory T-cells in the colonic mucosa and lamina propria that were accompanied by higher large intestinal interferon-γ (IFN-γ) concentrations in the former versus the latter but comparable to naive levels. Campylobacter application resulted in decreased splenic IFN-γ, tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), and IL-6 concentrations, whereas IL-12p70 secretion was increased in the spleens at day 21 following C. coli application only. In either Campylobacter cohort decreased IL-10 concentrations could be measured in splenic and serum samples. In conclusion, the commensal gut microbiota prevents mice from C. jejuni, but not C. coli infection.

Open access

Abstract

Infections with multi-drug resistant (MDR) bacteria including carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae are emerging worldwide but are difficult to treat with the currently available antibiotic compounds and therefore constitute serious threats to human health. This prompted us to perform a literature survey applying the MEDLINE database and Cochrane Register of Controlled Trials including clinical trials comparing different treatment regimens for infections caused by carbapenem-resistant K. pneumoniae. Our survey revealed that a combined application of antibiotic compounds such as meropenem plus vaborbactam, meropenem plus colistin and carbapenem plus carbapenem, resulted in significantly increased clinical cure and decreased mortality rates as compared to respective control treatment. However, further research on novel antibiotic compounds, but also on antibiotic-independent molecules providing synergistic or at least resistance-modifying properties needs to be undertaken in vitro as well as in large clinical trials to provide future options in the combat of emerging life-threatening infections caused by MDR bacteria.

Open access

Abstract

As antimicrobial resistance poses a globally rising health problem, the identification of alternative antimicrobial agents is urgently required. The short chain fatty acid propionate which is physiologically produced by the gut microbiota constitutes a promising molecule given that it has been widely used as a cosmetics and food preservative due to its antimicrobial effects. This literature survey aims to determine the most recent state of knowledge about the antimicrobial and immune-modulatory properties of propionate. Both in vitro and in vivo studies published between 2011 and 2020 confirmed the ability of propionate to inhibit the growth of several cellular pathogens, including Gram-positive and Gram-negative multi-drug resistant bacteria and fungi. In addition, heterogenous immune-modulatory and in particular, anti-inflammatory effects of propionate could be assessed involving a diverse signaling network that needs further comprehension. In conclusion, our literature survey provides evidence that propionate displays a plethora of health-beneficial including antimicrobial and immune-modulatory effects. Future research is required to further unravel the underlying molecular mechanisms and to set the basis for in vivo infection and clinical studies to broaden the path of propionate as a promising adjunct antibiotics-independent option in the combat of infections caused by multi-drug resistant bacteria.

Open access

Abstract

The use of antibiotics has provoked an emergence of various multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacteria. Infectious diseases that cannot be treated sufficiently with conventional antibiotic intervention strategies anymore constitue serious threats to human health. Therefore, current research focus has shifted to alternative, antibiotic-independent therapeutic approaches. In this context, vitamin E constitutes a promising candidate molecule due to its multi-faceted modes of action. Therefore, we used the PubMed database to perform a comprehensive literature survey reviewing studies addressing the antimicrobial properties of vitamin E against bacterial pathogens including MDR bacteria. The included studies published between 2010 and 2020 revealed that given its potent synergistic antimicrobial effects in combination with distinct antibiotic compounds, vitamin E constitutes a promising adjunct antibiotic treatment option directed against infectious diseases caused by MDR bacteria such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Burkholderia cenocepacia and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). In conclusion, the therapeutic value of vitamin E for the treatment of bacterial infections should therefore be investigated in future clinical studies.

Open access

Abstract

Antibiotic resistance is endangering public health globally and gives reason for constant fear of virtually intractable bacterial infections. Given a limitation of novel antibiotic classes brought to market in perspective, it is indispensable to explore novel, antibiotics-independent ways to fight bacterial infections. In consequence, the antibacterial properties of natural compounds have gained increasing attention in pharmacological sciences. We here performed a literature survey regarding the antibacterial effects of capsaicin and its derivatives constituting natural compounds of chili peppers. The studies included revealed that the compounds under investigation exerted i.) both direct and indirect antibacterial properties in vitro depending on the applied concentrations and the bacterial strains under investigation; ii.) synergistic antibacterial effects in combination with defined antibiotics; iii.) resistance-modification via inhibition of bacterial efflux pumps; iv.) attenuation of bacterial virulence factor expression; and v.) dampening of pathogen-induced immunopathological responses. In conclusion, capsaicin and its derivatives comprise promising antimicrobial molecules which could complement or replace antibiotic treatment strategies to fight bacterial infections. However, a solid basis for subsequent clinical trials requires future investigations to explore the underlying molecular mechanisms and in particular pharmaceutical evaluations in animal infection models.

Open access

Abstract

The excessive prescription of antibiotics has led to an increasing number of antimicrobial resistances, posing a major public health concern. Therefore, the pharmacological research has shifted its focus to the identification of natural compounds that exhibit anti-pathogenic properties without triggering antibiotic resistance. Butyrate has received increasing attention as a promising candidate for the treatment of bacterial infections in the gastrointestinal tract, particularly when antibiotic treatment is contraindicated. This literature survey summarizes recently investigated antibacterial and immune-modulatory effects of butyrate. This survey revealed that butyrate exerts direct antimicrobial effects against distinct strains of Acinetobacter baumannii, Escherichia coli, Bacillus, and Staphylococcus species. In addition, in vitro and in vivo studies confirmed indirect antimicrobial effects of butyrate, which were exhibited via induction of host defensin production as well as by activation of innate and adaptive immune responses. Finally, the synergistic action of butyrate in combination with other antimicrobial compounds results in a striking clearance of bacterial pathogens. In conclusion, butyrate and its derivatives might be considered as promising antibacterial and immune-modulatory agents in order to tackle bacterial infections without antibiotics.

Open access