Researchers at North Carolina State University found that secondary bile acids in the intestine may inhibit the growth of Clostridium difficile
, a bacterium that causes severe gastrointestinal disease
and even death. According to study author Casey Theriot, “we know that within a healthy gut environment, the growth of C. difficile
is inhibited … but we wanted to learn more about the mechanisms behind that inhibitory effect”.
Many bacteria living in the large intestine alter primary bile acid into secondary bile acid. Since antibiotics kill off bile-altering bacteria, this may be why antibiotics increase the risk for C. difficile
infection. Primary bile acids
are made from cholesterol in the liver and make their way to the intestines. Bacteria in the large intestine convert them into secondary bile acids such as deoxycholate
. Bile acids form micelles
to help digest and absorb fats. They also help metabolize glucose, lipoproteins, and some drugs.
The researchers found that primary bile acids (found in the small intestine) allowed the growth of C. difficile
, but secondary bile acids (produced by bacteria in the large intestine) inhibited C. difficile
growth. When they treated mice with various antibiotics - cefoperazone, clindamycin, or vancomycin - the levels of secondary bile acids such as deoxycholate and lithocholate dropped, allowing C. difficile
“These findings are a first step in understanding how the gut microbiota regulates bile acids throughout the intestine … hopefully they will aid the development of future therapies for C. difficile
infection and other metabolically relevant disorders such as obesity and diabetes” says Theriot.
, Science Daily