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1.  Modulation of the human gut microbiota by dietary fibres occurs at the species level 
BMC Biology  2016;14:3.
Dietary intake of specific non-digestible carbohydrates (including prebiotics) is increasingly seen as a highly effective approach for manipulating the composition and activities of the human gut microbiota to benefit health. Nevertheless, surprisingly little is known about the global response of the microbial community to particular carbohydrates. Recent in vivo dietary studies have demonstrated that the species composition of the human faecal microbiota is influenced by dietary intake. There is now potential to gain insights into the mechanisms involved by using in vitro systems that produce highly controlled conditions of pH and substrate supply.
We supplied two alternative non-digestible polysaccharides as energy sources to three different human gut microbial communities in anaerobic, pH-controlled continuous-flow fermentors. Community analysis showed that supply of apple pectin or inulin resulted in the highly specific enrichment of particular bacterial operational taxonomic units (OTUs; based on 16S rRNA gene sequences). Of the eight most abundant Bacteroides OTUs detected, two were promoted specifically by inulin and six by pectin. Among the Firmicutes, Eubacterium eligens in particular was strongly promoted by pectin, while several species were stimulated by inulin. Responses were influenced by pH, which was stepped up, and down, between 5.5, 6.0, 6.4 and 6.9 in parallel vessels within each experiment. In particular, several experiments involving downshifts to pH 5.5 resulted in Faecalibacterium prausnitzii replacing Bacteroides spp. as the dominant sequences observed. Community diversity was greater in the pectin-fed than in the inulin-fed fermentors, presumably reflecting the differing complexity of the two substrates.
We have shown that particular non-digestible dietary carbohydrates have enormous potential for modifying the gut microbiota, but these modifications occur at the level of individual strains and species and are not easily predicted a priori. Furthermore, the gut environment, especially pH, plays a key role in determining the outcome of interspecies competition. This makes it crucial to put greater effort into identifying the range of bacteria that may be stimulated by a given prebiotic approach. Both for reasons of efficacy and of safety, the development of prebiotics intended to benefit human health has to take account of the highly individual species profiles that may result.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12915-015-0224-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4709873  PMID: 26754945
Bacteroidetes; Prebiotic; Colonic anaerobes; Faecalibacterium prausnitzii; Firmicutes; Inulin; Pectin; Propionate
2.  The Ecological Dynamics of Fecal Contamination and Salmonella Typhi and Salmonella Paratyphi A in Municipal Kathmandu Drinking Water 
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases  2016;10(1):e0004346.
One of the UN sustainable development goals is to achieve universal access to safe and affordable drinking water by 2030. It is locations like Kathmandu, Nepal, a densely populated city in South Asia with endemic typhoid fever, where this goal is most pertinent. Aiming to understand the public health implications of water quality in Kathmandu we subjected weekly water samples from 10 sources for one year to a range of chemical and bacteriological analyses. We additionally aimed to detect the etiological agents of typhoid fever and longitudinally assess microbial diversity by 16S rRNA gene surveying. We found that the majority of water sources exhibited chemical and bacterial contamination exceeding WHO guidelines. Further analysis of the chemical and bacterial data indicated site-specific pollution, symptomatic of highly localized fecal contamination. Rainfall was found to be a key driver of this fecal contamination, correlating with nitrates and evidence of S. Typhi and S. Paratyphi A, for which DNA was detectable in 333 (77%) and 303 (70%) of 432 water samples, respectively. 16S rRNA gene surveying outlined a spectrum of fecal bacteria in the contaminated water, forming complex communities again displaying location-specific temporal signatures. Our data signify that the municipal water in Kathmandu is a predominant vehicle for the transmission of S. Typhi and S. Paratyphi A. This study represents the first extensive spatiotemporal investigation of water pollution in an endemic typhoid fever setting and implicates highly localized human waste as the major contributor to poor water quality in the Kathmandu Valley.
Author Summary
Aiming to understand the ecology of municipal drinking water and measure the potential exposure to pathogens that cause typhoid fever (Salmonella Typhi and Salmonella Paratyphi A) in Kathmandu, Nepal, we collected water samples from 10 water sources weekly for one year and subjected them to comprehensive chemical, bacteriological and molecular analyses. We found that Kathmandu drinking water exhibits longitudinal fecal contamination in excess of WHO guidelines. The chemical composition of water indicated site-specific pollution profiles, which were likely driven by localized contamination with human fecal material. We additionally found that Salmonella Typhi and Salmonella Paratyphi A could be detected throughout the year in every water sampling location, but specifically peaked after the monsoons. A microbiota analysis (a method for studying bacterial diversity in biological samples) revealed the water to be contaminated by complex populations of fecal bacteria, which again exhibited a unique profile by both location and time. This study shows that Salmonella Typhi and Salmonella Paratyphi A can be longitudinally detected in drinking water in Kathmandu and represents the first major investigation of the spatiotemporal dynamics of drinking water pollution in an endemic typhoid setting.
PMCID: PMC4703202  PMID: 26735696
3.  The Intestinal Microbiota Contributes to the Ability of Helminths to Modulate Allergic Inflammation 
Immunity  2015;43(5):998-1010.
Intestinal helminths are potent regulators of their host’s immune system and can ameliorate inflammatory diseases such as allergic asthma. In the present study we have assessed whether this anti-inflammatory activity was purely intrinsic to helminths, or whether it also involved crosstalk with the local microbiota. We report that chronic infection with the murine helminth Heligmosomoides polygyrus bakeri (Hpb) altered the intestinal habitat, allowing increased short chain fatty acid (SCFA) production. Transfer of the Hpb-modified microbiota alone was sufficient to mediate protection against allergic asthma. The helminth-induced anti-inflammatory cytokine secretion and regulatory T cell suppressor activity that mediated the protection required the G protein-coupled receptor (GPR)-41. A similar alteration in the metabolic potential of intestinal bacterial communities was observed with diverse parasitic and host species, suggesting that this represents an evolutionary conserved mechanism of host-microbe-helminth interactions.
•The microbiota contributes to helminth-induced modulation of allergic asthma•Cecal microbial communities are altered in helminth-infected mice•Helminth infection increases microbial-derived short chain fatty acids•GPR41 mediates helminth-induced Treg cell suppressor function
Intestinal helminths are well known to possess potent immunomodulatory capacities. Harris and colleagues demonstrate in mice that helminth infection alters the bacterial microbiota and increases the concentration of short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which reduce allergic asthma via GPR41. Increased intestinal SCFA concentrations were conserved across multiple parasite and host species.
PMCID: PMC4658337  PMID: 26522986
4.  ARK: Aggregation of Reads by K-Means for Estimation of Bacterial Community Composition 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(10):e0140644.
Estimation of bacterial community composition from high-throughput sequenced 16S rRNA gene amplicons is a key task in microbial ecology. Since the sequence data from each sample typically consist of a large number of reads and are adversely impacted by different levels of biological and technical noise, accurate analysis of such large datasets is challenging.
There has been a recent surge of interest in using compressed sensing inspired and convex-optimization based methods to solve the estimation problem for bacterial community composition. These methods typically rely on summarizing the sequence data by frequencies of low-order k-mers and matching this information statistically with a taxonomically structured database. Here we show that the accuracy of the resulting community composition estimates can be substantially improved by aggregating the reads from a sample with an unsupervised machine learning approach prior to the estimation phase. The aggregation of reads is a pre-processing approach where we use a standard K-means clustering algorithm that partitions a large set of reads into subsets with reasonable computational cost to provide several vectors of first order statistics instead of only single statistical summarization in terms of k-mer frequencies. The output of the clustering is then processed further to obtain the final estimate for each sample. The resulting method is called Aggregation of Reads by K-means (ARK), and it is based on a statistical argument via mixture density formulation. ARK is found to improve the fidelity and robustness of several recently introduced methods, with only a modest increase in computational complexity.
An open source, platform-independent implementation of the method in the Julia programming language is freely available at A Matlab implementation is available at
PMCID: PMC4619776  PMID: 26496191
5.  Chemokine (C-C Motif) Receptor 2 Mediates Dendritic Cell Recruitment to the Human Colon but Is Not Responsible for Differences Observed in Dendritic Cell Subsets, Phenotype, and Function Between the Proximal and Distal Colon 
Background & Aims
Most knowledge about gastrointestinal (GI)-tract dendritic cells (DC) relies on murine studies where CD103+ DC specialize in generating immune tolerance with the functionality of CD11b+/− subsets being unclear. Information about human GI-DC is scarce, especially regarding regional specifications. Here, we characterized human DC properties throughout the human colon.
Paired proximal (right/ascending) and distal (left/descending) human colonic biopsies from 95 healthy subjects were taken; DC were assessed by flow cytometry and microbiota composition assessed by 16S rRNA gene sequencing.
Colonic DC identified were myeloid (mDC, CD11c+CD123−) and further divided based on CD103 and SIRPα (human analog of murine CD11b) expression. CD103-SIRPα+ DC were the major population and with CD103+SIRPα+ DC were CD1c+ILT3+CCR2+ (although CCR2 was not expressed on all CD103+SIRPα+ DC). CD103+SIRPα- DC constituted a minor subset that were CD141+ILT3−CCR2−. Proximal colon samples had higher total DC counts and fewer CD103+SIRPα+ cells. Proximal colon DC were more mature than distal DC with higher stimulatory capacity for CD4+CD45RA+ T-cells. However, DC and DC-invoked T-cell expression of mucosal homing markers (β7, CCR9) was lower for proximal DC. CCR2 was expressed on circulating CD1c+, but not CD141+ mDC, and mediated DC recruitment by colonic culture supernatants in transwell assays. Proximal colon DC produced higher levels of cytokines. Mucosal microbiota profiling showed a lower microbiota load in the proximal colon, but with no differences in microbiota composition between compartments.
Proximal colonic DC subsets differ from those in distal colon and are more mature. Targeted immunotherapy using DC in T-cell mediated GI tract inflammation may therefore need to reflect this immune compartmentalization.
PMCID: PMC4705905  PMID: 26866054
CCR2; Dendritic Cells; Distal Colon; Human Gastrointestinal Tract; Proximal Colon; Microbiota; AMOVA, analysis of molecular variance; CCL, chemokine (C-C motif) ligand; CCR, chemokine (C-C motif) receptor; CFSE, 5-carboxy fluorescein diacetate succinimidyl ester; DC, dendritic cells; DL, detection limit; FACS, fluorescence-activated cell sorting; FITC, fluorescein isothiocyanate; GI, gastrointestinal; IL, interleukin; ILT3, Ig-like transcript 3; LPMC, lamina propria mononuclear cells; Mφ, macrophages; mDC, myeloid dendritic cell; PBMC, peripheral blood mononuclear cells; PCR, polymerase chain reaction; pDC, plasmacytoid dendritic cell; RALDH2, retinaldehyde dehydrogenase type 2; SIRPα, signal regulatory protein α; SPB, sodium phosphate buffer; Treg, regulatory T-cells
6.  TLR signaling modulates side effects of anticancer therapy in the small intestine 
Intestinal mucositis represents the most common complication of intensive chemotherapy, which has a severe adverse impact on quality of life of cancer patients. However, the precise pathophysiology remains to be clarified and there is so far no successful therapeutic intervention. Here, we investigated the role of innate immunity through TLR signaling in modulating genotoxic chemotherapy-induced small intestinal injury in vitro and in vivo. Genetic deletion of TLR2, but not MD-2, in mice resulted in severe chemotherapy-induced intestinal mucositis in the proximal jejunum with villous atrophy, accumulation of damaged DNA, CD11b+-myeloid cell infiltration and significant gene alterations in xenobiotic metabolism, including a decrease in ABCB1/MDR1 p-glycoprotein (p-gp) expression. Functionally, stimulation of TLR2 induced synthesis and drug efflux activity of ABCB1/MDR1 p-gp in murine and human CD11b+-myeloid cells, thus inhibiting chemotherapy-mediated cytotoxicity. Conversely, TLR2 activation failed to protect small intestinal tissues genetically deficient in MDR1A against DNA-damaging drug-induced apoptosis. Gut microbiota depletion by antibiotics led to increased susceptibility to chemotherapy-induced mucosal injury in wildtype mice, which was suppressed by administration of a TLR2 ligand, preserving ABCB1/MDR1 p-gp expression. Findings were confirmed in a preclinical model of human chemotherapy-induced intestinal mucositis using duodenal biopsies, by demonstrating that TLR2 activation limited the toxic-inflammatory reaction and maintained assembly of the drug transporter p-gp. In conclusion, this study identifies a novel molecular link between innate immunity and xenobiotic metabolism. TLR2 acts as a central regulator of xenobiotic defense via the multidrug transporter ABCB1/MDR1 p-gp. Targeting TLR2 may represent a novel therapeutic approach in chemotherapy-induced intestinal mucositis.
PMCID: PMC4338614  PMID: 25589072
7.  Interleukin 6 Increases Production of Cytokines by Colonic Innate Lymphoid Cells in Mice and Patients With Chronic Intestinal Inflammation 
Gastroenterology  2015;149(2):456-467.e15.
Background & Aims
Innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) are a heterogeneous group of mucosal inflammatory cells that participate in chronic intestinal inflammation. We investigated the role of interleukin 6 (IL6) in inducing activation of ILCs in mice and in human beings with chronic intestinal inflammation.
ILCs were isolated from colons of Tbx21-/- × Rag2-/- mice (TRUC), which develop colitis; patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD); and patients without colon inflammation (controls). ILCs were characterized by flow cytometry; cytokine production was measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and cytokine bead arrays. Mice were given intraperitoneal injections of depleting (CD4, CD90), neutralizing (IL6), or control antibodies. Isolated colon tissues were analyzed by histology, explant organ culture, and cell culture. Bacterial DNA was extracted from mouse fecal samples to assess the intestinal microbiota.
IL17A- and IL22-producing, natural cytotoxicity receptor–negative, ILC3 were the major subset of ILCs detected in colons of TRUC mice. Combinations of IL23 and IL1α induced production of cytokines by these cells, which increased further after administration of IL6. Antibodies against IL6 reduced colitis in TRUC mice without significantly affecting the structure of their intestinal microbiota. Addition of IL6 increased production of IL17A, IL22, and interferon-γ by human intestinal CD3-negative, IL7-receptor–positive cells, in a dose-dependent manner.
IL6 contributes to activation of colonic natural cytotoxicity receptor–negative, CD4-negative, ILC3s in mice with chronic intestinal inflammation (TRUC mice) by increasing IL23- and IL1α-induced production of IL17A and IL22. This pathway might be targeted to treat patients with IBD because IL6, which is highly produced in colonic tissue by some IBD patients, also increased the production of IL17A, IL22, and interferon-γ by cultured human colon CD3-negative, IL7-receptor–positive cells.
PMCID: PMC4539618  PMID: 25917784
UC; CD; Innate Immunity; Immune Regulation; CD, Crohn’s disease; cLPMC, colonic lamina propria mononuclear cell; ELISA, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay; IBD, inflammatory bowel disease; IL, interleukin; ILC, innate lymphoid cell; IL7R+, IL7R-receptor–positive; mLN, mesenteric lymph node; NCR, natural cytotoxicity receptor; OTU, operational taxonomic unit; PCR, polymerase chain reaction; PMA, phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate; sIL6Rα, soluble interleukin 6Rα; Th, T-helper cell; TRUC, Tbx21-/-Rag2-/- ulcerative colitis; UC, ulcerative colitis
8.  16S rRNA gene-based profiling of the human infant gut microbiota is strongly influenced by sample processing and PCR primer choice 
Microbiome  2015;3:26.
Characterisation of the bacterial composition of the gut microbiota is increasingly carried out with a view to establish the role of different bacterial species in causation or prevention of disease. It is thus essential that the methods used to determine the microbial composition are robust. Here, several widely used molecular techniques were compared to establish the optimal methods to assess the bacterial composition in faecal samples from babies, before weaning.
The bacterial community profile detected in the faeces of infants is highly dependent on the methodology used. Bifidobacteria were the most abundant bacteria detected at 6 weeks in faeces from two initially breast-fed babies using fluorescent in situ hybridisation (FISH), in agreement with data from previous culture-based studies. Using the 16S rRNA gene sequencing approach, however, we found that the detection of bifidobacteria in particular crucially depended on the optimisation of the DNA extraction method, and the choice of primers used to amplify the V1–V3 regions of 16S rRNA genes prior to subsequent sequence analysis. Bifidobacteria were only well represented among amplified 16S rRNA gene sequences when mechanical disruption (bead-beating) procedures for DNA extraction were employed together with optimised “universal” PCR primers. These primers incorporate degenerate bases at positions where mismatches to bifidobacteria and other bacterial taxa occur. The use of a DNA extraction kit with no bead-beating step resulted in a complete absence of bifidobacteria in the sequence data, even when using the optimised primers.
This work emphasises the importance of sample processing methodology to downstream sequencing results and illustrates the value of employing multiple approaches for determining microbiota composition.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s40168-015-0087-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4482049  PMID: 26120470
16S rRNA gene sequencing; Bifidobacteria; Infant; Intestinal microbiota; FISH
9.  Microbiota That Affect Risk for Shigellosis in Children in Low-Income Countries 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2015;21(2):242-250.
Co-infection with Shigella spp. and other microbes modifies diarrhea risk.
Pathogens in the gastrointestinal tract exist within a vast population of microbes. We examined associations between pathogens and composition of gut microbiota as they relate to Shigella spp./enteroinvasive Escherichia coli infection. We analyzed 3,035 stool specimens (1,735 nondiarrheal and 1,300 moderate-to-severe diarrheal) from the Global Enteric Multicenter Study for 9 enteropathogens. Diarrheal specimens had a higher number of enteropathogens (diarrheal mean 1.4, nondiarrheal mean 0.95; p<0.0001). Rotavirus showed a negative association with Shigella spp. in cases of diarrhea (odds ratio 0.31, 95% CI 0.17–0.55) and had a large combined effect on moderate-to-severe diarrhea (odds ratio 29, 95% CI 3.8–220). In 4 Lactobacillus taxa identified by 16S rRNA gene sequencing, the association between pathogen and disease was decreased, which is consistent with the possibility that Lactobacillus spp. are protective against Shigella spp.–induced diarrhea. Bacterial diversity of gut microbiota was associated with diarrhea status, not high levels of the Shigella spp. ipaH gene.
PMCID: PMC4313639  PMID: 25625766
shigellosis; Shigella; bacteria; polymicrobial infection; Escherichia coli; enteroinvasive E. coli; EIEC; Lactobacillus; rotavirus; viruses; co-occurring pathogens; enteropathogens; microbiota; ipaH gene; diarrhea; children; low-income countries
10.  Reagent and laboratory contamination can critically impact sequence-based microbiome analyses 
BMC Biology  2014;12:87.
The study of microbial communities has been revolutionised in recent years by the widespread adoption of culture independent analytical techniques such as 16S rRNA gene sequencing and metagenomics. One potential confounder of these sequence-based approaches is the presence of contamination in DNA extraction kits and other laboratory reagents.
In this study we demonstrate that contaminating DNA is ubiquitous in commonly used DNA extraction kits and other laboratory reagents, varies greatly in composition between different kits and kit batches, and that this contamination critically impacts results obtained from samples containing a low microbial biomass. Contamination impacts both PCR-based 16S rRNA gene surveys and shotgun metagenomics. We provide an extensive list of potential contaminating genera, and guidelines on how to mitigate the effects of contamination.
These results suggest that caution should be advised when applying sequence-based techniques to the study of microbiota present in low biomass environments. Concurrent sequencing of negative control samples is strongly advised.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12915-014-0087-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4228153  PMID: 25387460
Contamination; Microbiome; Microbiota; Metagenomics; 16S rRNA
11.  Time between Collection and Storage Significantly Influences Bacterial Sequence Composition in Sputum Samples from Cystic Fibrosis Respiratory Infections 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2014;52(8):3011-3016.
Spontaneously expectorated sputum is traditionally used as the sampling method for the investigation of lower airway infections. While guidelines exist for the handling of these samples for culture-based diagnostic microbiology, there is no comparable consensus on their handling prior to culture-independent analysis. The increasing incorporation of culture-independent approaches in diagnostic microbiology means that it is of critical importance to assess potential biases. The aim of this study was to assess the impact of delayed freezing on culture-independent microbiological analyses and to identify acceptable parameters for sample handling. Sputum samples from eight adult cystic fibrosis (CF) patients were collected and aliquoted into sterile Bijou bottles. Aliquots were stored at room temperature before being frozen at −80°C for increasing intervals, up to a 72-h period. Samples were treated with propidium monoazide to distinguish live from dead cells prior to DNA extraction, and 16S rRNA gene pyrosequencing was used to characterize their bacterial compositions. Substantial variation was observed in samples with high-diversity bacterial communities over time, whereas little variation was observed in low-diversity communities dominated by recognized CF pathogens, regardless of time to freezing. Partitioning into common and rare species demonstrated that the rare species drove changes in similarity. The percentage abundance of anaerobes over the study significantly decreased after 12 h at room temperature (P = 0.008). Failure to stabilize samples at −80°C within 12 h of collection results in significant changes in the detected community composition.
PMCID: PMC4136140  PMID: 24920767
12.  Diarrhea in young children from low-income countries leads to large-scale alterations in intestinal microbiota composition 
Genome Biology  2014;15(6):R76.
Diarrheal diseases continue to contribute significantly to morbidity and mortality in infants and young children in developing countries. There is an urgent need to better understand the contributions of novel, potentially uncultured, diarrheal pathogens to severe diarrheal disease, as well as distortions in normal gut microbiota composition that might facilitate severe disease.
We use high throughput 16S rRNA gene sequencing to compare fecal microbiota composition in children under five years of age who have been diagnosed with moderate to severe diarrhea (MSD) with the microbiota from diarrhea-free controls. Our study includes 992 children from four low-income countries in West and East Africa, and Southeast Asia. Known pathogens, as well as bacteria currently not considered as important diarrhea-causing pathogens, are positively associated with MSD, and these include Escherichia/Shigella, and Granulicatella species, and Streptococcus mitis/pneumoniae groups. In both cases and controls, there tend to be distinct negative correlations between facultative anaerobic lineages and obligate anaerobic lineages. Overall genus-level microbiota composition exhibit a shift in controls from low to high levels of Prevotella and in MSD cases from high to low levels of Escherichia/Shigella in younger versus older children; however, there was significant variation among many genera by both site and age.
Our findings expand the current understanding of microbiota-associated diarrhea pathogenicity in young children from developing countries. Our findings are necessarily based on correlative analyses and must be further validated through epidemiological and molecular techniques.
PMCID: PMC4072981  PMID: 24995464
13.  Sequencing ancient calcified dental plaque shows changes in oral microbiota with dietary shifts of the Neolithic and Industrial revolutions 
Nature genetics  2013;45(4):450-455e1.
The importance of commensal microbes for human health is increasingly recognized1-5, yet the impacts of evolutionary changes in human diet and culture on commensal microbiota remain almost unknown. Two of the greatest dietary shifts in human evolution involved the adoption of carbohydrate-rich Neolithic (farming) diets6,7 (beginning ~10,000 years BP6,8), and the more recent advent of industrially processed flour and sugar (~1850)9. Here, we show that calcified dental plaque (dental calculus) on ancient teeth preserves a detailed genetic record throughout this period. Data from 34 early European skeletons indicate that the transition from hunter-gatherer to farming shifted the oral microbial community to a disease-associated configuration. The composition of oral microbiota remained surprisingly constant between Neolithic and Medieval times, after which (the now ubiquitous) cariogenic bacteria became dominant, apparently during the Industrial Revolution. Modern oral microbiota are markedly less diverse than historic populations, which might be contributing to chronic oral (and other) disease in post-industrial lifestyles.
PMCID: PMC3996550  PMID: 23416520
14.  Survey of Culture, GoldenGate Assay, Universal Biosensor Assay, and 16S rRNA Gene Sequencing as Alternative Methods of Bacterial Pathogen Detection 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2013;51(10):3263-3269.
Cultivation-based assays combined with PCR or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)-based methods for finding virulence factors are standard methods for detecting bacterial pathogens in stools; however, with emerging molecular technologies, new methods have become available. The aim of this study was to compare four distinct detection technologies for the identification of pathogens in stools from children under 5 years of age in The Gambia, Mali, Kenya, and Bangladesh. The children were identified, using currently accepted clinical protocols, as either controls or cases with moderate to severe diarrhea. A total of 3,610 stool samples were tested by established clinical culture techniques: 3,179 DNA samples by the Universal Biosensor assay (Ibis Biosciences, Inc.), 1,466 DNA samples by the GoldenGate assay (Illumina), and 1,006 DNA samples by sequencing of 16S rRNA genes. Each method detected different proportions of samples testing positive for each of seven enteric pathogens, enteroaggregative Escherichia coli (EAEC), enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC), enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC), Shigella spp., Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella enterica, and Aeromonas spp. The comparisons among detection methods included the frequency of positive stool samples and kappa values for making pairwise comparisons. Overall, the standard culture methods detected Shigella spp., EPEC, ETEC, and EAEC in smaller proportions of the samples than either of the methods based on detection of the virulence genes from DNA in whole stools. The GoldenGate method revealed the greatest agreement with the other methods. The agreement among methods was higher in cases than in controls. The new molecular technologies have a high potential for highly sensitive identification of bacterial diarrheal pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3811648  PMID: 23884998
15.  The Impact of Different DNA Extraction Kits and Laboratories upon the Assessment of Human Gut Microbiota Composition by 16S rRNA Gene Sequencing 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88982.
Determining bacterial community structure in fecal samples through DNA sequencing is an important facet of intestinal health research. The impact of different commercially available DNA extraction kits upon bacterial community structures has received relatively little attention. The aim of this study was to analyze bacterial communities in volunteer and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patient fecal samples extracted using widely used DNA extraction kits in established gastrointestinal research laboratories.
Fecal samples from two healthy volunteers (H3 and H4) and two relapsing IBD patients (I1 and I2) were investigated. DNA extraction was undertaken using MoBio Powersoil and MP Biomedicals FastDNA SPIN Kit for Soil DNA extraction kits. PCR amplification for pyrosequencing of bacterial 16S rRNA genes was performed in both laboratories on all samples. Hierarchical clustering of sequencing data was done using the Yue and Clayton similarity coefficient.
DNA extracted using the FastDNA kit and the MoBio kit gave median DNA concentrations of 475 (interquartile range 228-561) and 22 (IQR 9-36) ng/µL respectively (p<0.0001). Hierarchical clustering of sequence data by Yue and Clayton coefficient revealed four clusters. Samples from individuals H3 and I2 clustered by patient; however, samples from patient I1 extracted with the MoBio kit clustered with samples from patient H4 rather than the other I1 samples. Linear modelling on relative abundance of common bacterial families revealed significant differences between kits; samples extracted with MoBio Powersoil showed significantly increased Bacteroidaceae, Ruminococcaceae and Porphyromonadaceae, and lower Enterobacteriaceae, Lachnospiraceae, Clostridiaceae, and Erysipelotrichaceae (p<0.05).
This study demonstrates significant differences in DNA yield and bacterial DNA composition when comparing DNA extracted from the same fecal sample with different extraction kits. This highlights the importance of ensuring that samples in a study are prepared with the same method, and the need for caution when cross-comparing studies that use different methods.
PMCID: PMC3933346  PMID: 24586470
16.  Patent Human Infections with the Whipworm, Trichuris trichiura, Are Not Associated with Alterations in the Faecal Microbiota 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e76573.
The soil-transmitted helminth (STH), Trichuris trichiura colonises the human large intestine where it may modify inflammatory responses, an effect possibly mediated through alterations in the intestinal microbiota. We hypothesised that patent T. trichiura infections would be associated with altered faecal microbiota and that anthelmintic treatment would induce a microbiota resembling more closely that observed in uninfected individuals.
Materials and Methods
School children in Ecuador were screened for STH infections and allocated to 3 groups: uninfected, T. trichiura only, and mixed infections with T. trichiura and Ascaris lumbricoides. A sample of uninfected children and those with T. trichiura infections only were given anthelmintic treatment. Bacterial community profiles in faecal samples were studied by 454 pyrosequencing of 16 S rRNA genes.
Microbiota analyses of faeces were done for 97 children: 30 were uninfected, 17 were infected with T. trichiura, and 50 with T. trichiura and A. lumbricoides. Post-treatment samples were analyzed for 14 children initially infected with T. trichiura alone and for 21 uninfected children. Treatment resulted in 100% cure of STH infections. Comparisons of the microbiota at different taxonomic levels showed no statistically significant differences in composition between uninfected children and those with T. trichiura infections. We observed a decreased proportional abundance of a few bacterial genera from the Clostridia class of Firmicutes and a reduced bacterial diversity among children with mixed infections compared to the other two groups, indicating a possible specific effect of A. lumbricoides infection. Anthelmintic treatment of children with T. trichiura did not alter faecal microbiota composition.
Our data indicate that patent human infections with T. trichiura may have no effect on faecal microbiota but that A. lumbricoides colonisation might be associated with a disturbed microbiota. Our results also catalogue the microbiota of rural Ecuadorians and indicate differences with individuals from more urban industrialised societies.
PMCID: PMC3790696  PMID: 24124574
17.  Evolution of locomotion in Anthropoidea: the semicircular canal evidence 
Our understanding of locomotor evolution in anthropoid primates has been limited to those taxa for which good postcranial fossil material and appropriate modern analogues are available. We report the results of an analysis of semicircular canal size variation in 16 fossil anthropoid species dating from the Late Eocene to the Late Miocene, and use these data to reconstruct evolutionary changes in locomotor adaptations in anthropoid primates over the last 35 Ma. Phylogenetically informed regression analyses of semicircular canal size reveal three important aspects of anthropoid locomotor evolution: (i) the earliest anthropoid primates engaged in relatively slow locomotor behaviours, suggesting that this was the basal anthropoid pattern; (ii) platyrrhines from the Miocene of South America were relatively agile compared with earlier anthropoids; and (iii) while the last common ancestor of cercopithecoids and hominoids likely was relatively slow like earlier stem catarrhines, the results suggest that the basal crown catarrhine may have been a relatively agile animal. The latter scenario would indicate that hominoids of the later Miocene secondarily derived their relatively slow locomotor repertoires.
PMCID: PMC3396915  PMID: 22696520
vestibular system; generalized least-squares analysis; primates
18.  Enhanced Susceptibility to Citrobacter rodentium Infection in MicroRNA-155-Deficient Mice 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(3):723-732.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small noncoding molecules that control gene expression posttranscriptionally, with microRNA-155 (miR-155) one of the first to be implicated in immune regulation. Here, we show that miR-155-deficient mice are less able to eradicate a mucosal Citrobacter rodentium infection than wild-type C57BL/6 mice. miR-155-deficient mice exhibited prolonged colonization associated with a higher C. rodentium burden in gastrointestinal tissue and spread into systemic tissues. Germinal center formation and humoral immune responses against C. rodentium were severely impaired in infected miR-155-deficient mice. A similarly susceptible phenotype was observed in μMT mice reconstituted with miR-155-deficient B cells, indicating that miR-155 is required intrinsically for mediating protection against this predominantly luminal bacterial pathogen.
PMCID: PMC3584869  PMID: 23264052
19.  Active Aging: A Global Goal 
PMCID: PMC3586450  PMID: 23476642
20.  Targeted Restoration of the Intestinal Microbiota with a Simple, Defined Bacteriotherapy Resolves Relapsing Clostridium difficile Disease in Mice 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(10):e1002995.
Relapsing C. difficile disease in humans is linked to a pathological imbalance within the intestinal microbiota, termed dysbiosis, which remains poorly understood. We show that mice infected with epidemic C. difficile (genotype 027/BI) develop highly contagious, chronic intestinal disease and persistent dysbiosis characterized by a distinct, simplified microbiota containing opportunistic pathogens and altered metabolite production. Chronic C. difficile 027/BI infection was refractory to vancomycin treatment leading to relapsing disease. In contrast, treatment of C. difficile 027/BI infected mice with feces from healthy mice rapidly restored a diverse, healthy microbiota and resolved C. difficile disease and contagiousness. We used this model to identify a simple mixture of six phylogenetically diverse intestinal bacteria, including novel species, which can re-establish a health-associated microbiota and clear C. difficile 027/BI infection from mice. Thus, targeting a dysbiotic microbiota with a defined mixture of phylogenetically diverse bacteria can trigger major shifts in the microbial community structure that displaces C. difficile and, as a result, resolves disease and contagiousness. Further, we demonstrate a rational approach to harness the therapeutic potential of health-associated microbial communities to treat C. difficile disease and potentially other forms of intestinal dysbiosis.
Author Summary
Pathological imbalances within the intestinal microbiota, termed dysbiosis, are often associated with chronic Clostridium difficile infections in humans. We show that infection of mice with the healthcare pathogen C. difficile leads to persistent intestinal dysbiosis that is associated with chronic disease and a highly contagious state. Using this model we rationally designed a simple mixture of phylogenetically diverse intestinal bacteria that can disrupt intestinal dysbiosis and as a result resolve disease and contagiousness. Our results validate the microbiota as a viable therapeutic target and open the way to rationally design bacteriotherapy to treat chronic C. difficile infections and potentially other forms of persistent dysbiosis.
PMCID: PMC3486913  PMID: 23133377
21.  The Transcription Factor T-bet Regulates Intestinal Inflammation Mediated by Interleukin-7 Receptor+ Innate Lymphoid Cells 
Immunity  2012;37(4):674-684.
Mice lacking the transcription factor T-bet in the innate immune system develop microbiota-dependent colitis. Here, we show that interleukin-17A (IL-17A)-producing IL-7Rα+ innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) were potent promoters of disease in Tbx21−/−Rag2−/− ulcerative colitis (TRUC) mice. TNF-α produced by CD103−CD11b+ dendritic cells synergized with IL-23 to drive IL-17A production by ILCs, demonstrating a previously unrecognized layer of cellular crosstalk between dendritic cells and ILCs. We have identified Helicobacter typhlonius as a key disease trigger driving excess TNF-α production and promoting colitis in TRUC mice. Crucially, T-bet also suppressed the expression of IL-7R, a key molecule involved in controlling intestinal ILC homeostasis. The importance of IL-7R signaling in TRUC disease was highlighted by the dramatic reduction in intestinal ILCs and attenuated colitis following IL-7R blockade. Taken together, these data demonstrate the mechanism by which T-bet regulates the complex interplay between mucosal dendritic cells, ILCs, and the intestinal microbiota.
► Chronic colitis in TRUC mice was mediated by IL-17-producing innate lymphoid cells ► TNF-α synergized with IL-23 to induce innate IL-17 production ► Helicobacter typhlonius triggered intestinal pathology in TRUC mice ► T-bet regulated IL-7R transcription, a key checkpoint in intestinal ILC homeostasis
PMCID: PMC3540260  PMID: 23063332
22.  The bacteriology of pouchitis: a molecular phylogenetic analysis using 16S rRNA gene cloning and sequencing 
Annals of surgery  2010;252(1):90-98.
To identify, compare and contrast the microbiota in patients with and without pouchitis after RPC for UC and FAP.
Summary Background Data
Pouchitis is the most common complication following restorative proctocolectomy (RPC). An abnormal host-microbial interaction has been implicated. We investigated the pouch microbiota in patients with and without pouchitis undergoing restorative proctocolectomy for UC and familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP).
Mucosal pouch biopsies, taken from 16 UC (pouchitis 8) and 8 FAP (pouchitis 3) patients were analysed to the species (or phylotype) level by cloning and sequencing of 3,184 full-length bacterial 16S rRNA genes.
There was a significant increase in Proteobacteria (p= 0.019) and a significant decrease in Bacteroidetes (p= 0.001) and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii (p=0.029) in the total UC compared to the total FAP cohort, but only limited differences were found between the UC non-pouchitis and pouchitis groups and the FAP pouchitis and non-pouchitis groups. Bacterial diversity in the FAP non-pouchitis group was significantly greater than in UC non-pouchitis (p= 0.019) and significantly greater in UC non-pouchitis compared to UC pouchitis (p= 0.009). No individual species or phylotype specifically associated with either UC or FAP pouchitis was found.
UC pouch patients have a different, less diverse, gut microbiota than FAP patients. A further reduction in bacterial diversity but no significant dysbiosis occurs in those with pouchitis. The study suggests that a dysbiosis occurs in the ileal pouch of UC RPC patients which predisposes to, but may not directly cause, pouchitis.
PMCID: PMC3292798  PMID: 20562611
23.  Bayesian estimation of bacterial community composition from 454 sequencing data 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(12):5240-5249.
Estimating bacterial community composition from a mixed sample in different applied contexts is an important task for many microbiologists. The bacterial community composition is commonly estimated by clustering polymerase chain reaction amplified 16S rRNA gene sequences. Current taxonomy-independent clustering methods for analyzing these sequences, such as UCLUST, ESPRIT-Tree and CROP, have two limitations: (i) expert knowledge is needed, i.e. a difference cutoff between species needs to be specified; (ii) closely related species cannot be separated. The first limitation imposes a burden on the user, since considerable effort is needed to select appropriate parameters, whereas the second limitation leads to an inaccurate description of the underlying bacterial community composition. We propose a probabilistic model-based method to estimate bacterial community composition which tackles these limitations. Our method requires very little expert knowledge, where only the possible maximum number of clusters needs to be specified. Also our method demonstrates its ability to separate closely related species in two experiments, in spite of sequencing errors and individual variations.
PMCID: PMC3384343  PMID: 22406836
24.  Dominant and diet-responsive groups of bacteria within the human colonic microbiota 
The ISME journal  2010;5(2):220-230.
The populations of dominant species within the human colonic microbiota can potentially be modified by dietary intake with consequences for health. Here we examined the influence of precisely controlled diets in 14 overweight men. Volunteers were provided successively with a control diet, diets high in resistant starch (RS) or non-starch polysaccharides (NSPs) and a reduced carbohydrate weight loss (WL) diet, over 10 weeks. Analysis of 16S rRNA sequences in stool samples of six volunteers detected 320 phylotypes (defined at >98% identity) of which 26, including 19 cultured species, each accounted for >1% of sequences. Although samples clustered more strongly by individual than by diet, time courses obtained by targeted qPCR revealed that ‘blooms' in specific bacterial groups occurred rapidly after a dietary change. These were rapidly reversed by the subsequent diet. Relatives of Ruminococcus bromii (R-ruminococci) increased in most volunteers on the RS diet, accounting for a mean of 17% of total bacteria compared with 3.8% on the NSP diet, whereas the uncultured Oscillibacter group increased on the RS and WL diets. Relatives of Eubacterium rectale increased on RS (to mean 10.1%) but decreased, along with Collinsella aerofaciens, on WL. Inter-individual variation was marked, however, with >60% of RS remaining unfermented in two volunteers on the RS diet, compared to <4% in the other 12 volunteers; these two individuals also showed low numbers of R-ruminococci (<1%). Dietary non-digestible carbohydrate can produce marked changes in the gut microbiota, but these depend on the initial composition of an individual's gut microbiota.
PMCID: PMC3105703  PMID: 20686513
human colon; resistant starch; 16S rRNA; phylotypes; Ruminococcus; temporal change
25.  The first four million years of human evolution 
PMCID: PMC2981965  PMID: 20855300

Results 1-25 (42)