Authors:Silke Dubbert, Birgit Klinkert, Michael Schimiczek, Trudy M. Wassenaar, and Rudolf von Bünau
Probiotic Escherichia coli strain Nissle 1917 (EcN) has a long history of safe use. However, the recently discovered presence of a pks locus in its genome presumably producing colibactin has questioned its safety, as colibactin has been implicated in genotoxicity. Here, we assess the genotoxic potential of EcN. Metabolic products were tested in vitro by the Ames test, a mutagenicity assay developed to detect point mutation-inducing activity. Live EcN were tested by an adapted Ames test. Neither the standard nor the adapted Ames test resulted in increased numbers of revertant colonies, indicating that EcN metabolites or viable cells lacked mutagenic activity. The in vivo Mammalian Alkaline Comet Assay (the gold standard for detecting DNA-strand breaks) was used to determine potentially induced DNA-strand breaks in cells of the gastro-intestinal tract of rats orally administered with viable EcN. Bacteria were given at 109–1011 colony forming units (CFU) per animal by oral gavage on 2 consecutive days and daily for a period of 28 days to 5 rats per group. No significant differences compared to negative controls were found. These results demonstrate that EcN does not induce DNA-strand breaks and does not have any detectable genotoxic potential in the test animals.