Illuminating the Role of Microcins in Limiting Enterobacterial Blooms

Research conducted by microbiologists at University of California, Irvine, has demonstrated the efficacy of a new approach to treating bacteria-induced intestinal inflammation. The team reports that small protein molecules called microcins that are produced by beneficial gut microbes can inhibit some illness-causing bacteria in the intestines. Specifically, they found that a probiotic strain of E.coli, Nissle 1917, engages these microcins to block salmonella and an invasive form of E. coli in the intestines of patients with inflammatory bowel disease.  The findings are published in the journal Nature.

The findings represent a significant advance in the development of better responses to these intestinal diseases that cause abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and fever for which few effective treatments currently exist. Manuela Raffatellu, MD, associate professor of microbiology & molecular genetics, observed “Although an in vivo role for microcins has been suggested for 40 years, it has never been convincingly demonstrated. We hypothesize that their role was missed because, as our data indicate, microcins do not seem effective in non-inflamed intestines. In contrast, we show that in an inflamed intestine, microcins help a probiotic strain limit the growth of some harmful bacteria.” Dr. Raffatellu said that additional work will be needed to purify microcins and to determine if they can be given as narrow-spectrum therapeutics to inhibit enteric pathogens and reduce enterobacterial blooms.

Read a news story about the findings here.

The journal abstract may be read here.

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