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1.  Evolution of gut microbiota composition from birth to 24 weeks in the INFANTMET Cohort 
Microbiome  2017;5:4.
The gut is the most extensively studied niche of the human microbiome. The aim of this study was to characterise the initial gut microbiota development of a cohort of breastfed infants (n = 192) from 1 to 24 weeks of age.
V4-V5 region 16S rRNA amplicon Illumina sequencing and, in parallel, bacteriological culture. The metabolomic profile of infant urine at 4 weeks of age was also examined by LC-MS.
Full-term (FT), spontaneous vaginally delivered (SVD) infants’ microbiota remained stable at both phylum and genus levels during the 24-week period examined. FT Caesarean section (CS) infants displayed an increased faecal abundance of Firmicutes (p < 0.01) and lower abundance of Actinobacteria (p < 0.001) after the first week of life compared to FT-SVD infants. FT-CS infants gradually progressed to harbouring a microbiota closely resembling FT-SVD (which remained stable) by week 8 of life, which was maintained at week 24. The gut microbiota of preterm (PT) infants displayed a significantly greater abundance of Proteobacteria compared to FT infants (p < 0.001) at week 1.
Metabolomic analysis of urine at week 4 indicated PT-CS infants have a functionally different metabolite profile than FT (both CS and SVD) infants. Co-inertia analysis showed co-variation between the urine metabolome and the faecal microbiota of the infants. Tryptophan and tyrosine metabolic pathways, as well as fatty acid and bile acid metabolism, were found to be affected by delivery mode and gestational age.
These findings confirm that mode of delivery and gestational age both have significant effects on early neonatal microbiota composition. There is also a significant difference between the metabolite profile of FT and PT infants. Prolonged breastfeeding was shown to have a significant effect on the microbiota composition of FT-CS infants at 24 weeks of age, but interestingly not on that of FT-SVD infants. Twins had more similar microbiota to one another than between two random infants, reflecting the influence of similarities in both host genetics and the environment on the microbiota.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s40168-016-0213-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC5240274  PMID: 28095889
2.  Gut Bifidobacteria Populations in Human Health and Aging 
The intestinal microbiota has increasingly been shown to have a vital role in various aspects of human health. Indeed, several studies have linked alterations in the gut microbiota with the development of different diseases. Among the vast gut bacterial community, Bifidobacterium is a genus which dominates the intestine of healthy breast-fed infants whereas in adulthood the levels are lower but relatively stable. The presence of different species of bifidobacteria changes with age, from childhood to old age. Bifidobacterium longum, B. breve, and B. bifidum are generally dominant in infants, whereas B. catenulatum, B. adolescentis and, as well as B. longum are more prevalent in adults. Increasingly, evidence is accumulating which shows beneficial effects of supplementation with bifidobacteria for the improvement of human health conditions ranging from protection against infection to different extra- and intra-intestinal positive effects. Moreover, bifidobacteria have been associated with the production of a number of potentially health promoting metabolites including short chain fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid and bacteriocins. The aim of this mini-review is to describe the bifidobacteria compositional changes associated with different stages in life, highlighting their beneficial role, as well as their presence or absence in many disease states.
PMCID: PMC4990546  PMID: 27594848
bifidobacteria; intestinal microbiota; health; aging; probiotics
3.  Bacteriocin production: a relatively unharnessed probiotic trait? 
F1000Research  2016;5:2587.
Probiotics are “live microorganisms which, when consumed in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit to the host”. A number of attributes are highly sought after among these microorganisms, including immunomodulation, epithelial barrier maintenance, competitive exclusion, production of short-chain fatty acids, and bile salt metabolism. Bacteriocin production is also generally regarded as a probiotic trait, but it can be argued that, in contrast to other traits, it is often considered a feature that is desirable, rather than a key probiotic trait. As such, the true potential of these antimicrobials has yet to be realised.
PMCID: PMC5089130  PMID: 27853525
probiotic; bacteriocin; microbiota; gut health
4.  Genome Sequence of Jumbo Phage vB_AbaM_ME3 of Acinetobacter baumanni 
Genome Announcements  2016;4(4):e00431-16.
Bacteriophage (phage) vB_AbaM_ME3 was previously isolated from wastewater effluent using the propagating host Acinetobacter baumannii DSM 30007. The full genome was sequenced, revealing it to be the largest Acinetobacter bacteriophage sequenced to date with a size of 234,900 bp and containing 326 open reading frames (ORFs).
PMCID: PMC5000817  PMID: 27563033
5.  Early Gut Microbiota Perturbations Following Intrapartum Antibiotic Prophylaxis to Prevent Group B Streptococcal Disease 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(6):e0157527.
The faecal microbiota composition of infants born to mothers receiving intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis with ampicillin against group B Streptococcus was compared with that of control infants, at day 7 and 30 of life. Recruited newborns were both exclusive breastfed and mixed fed, in order to also study the effect of dietary factors on the microbiota composition. Massive parallel sequencing of the V3-V4 region of the 16S rRNA gene and qPCR analysis were performed. Antibiotic prophylaxis caused the most marked changes on the microbiota in breastfed infants, mainly resulting in a higher relative abundance of Enterobacteriaceae, compared with control infants (52% vs. 14%, p = 0.044) and mixed-fed infants (52% vs. 16%, p = 0.13 NS) at day 7 and in a lower bacterial diversity compared to mixed-fed infants and controls. Bifidobacteria were also particularly vulnerable and abundances were reduced in breastfed (p = 0.001) and mixed-fed antibiotic treated groups compared to non-treated groups. Reductions in bifidobacteria in antibiotic treated infants were also confirmed by qPCR. By day 30, the bifidobacterial population recovered and abundances significantly increased in both breastfed (p = 0.025) and mixed-fed (p = 0.013) antibiotic treated groups, whereas Enterobacteriaceae abundances remained highest in the breastfed antibiotic treated group (44%), compared with control infants (16%) and mixed-fed antibiotic treated group (28%). This study has therefore demonstrated the short term consequences of maternal intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis on the infant faecal microbial population, particularly in that of breastfed infants.
PMCID: PMC4917232  PMID: 27332552
6.  Thermus and the Pink Discoloration Defect in Cheese 
mSystems  2016;1(3):e00023-16.
Pink discoloration in cheese is a defect affecting many cheeses throughout the world, leading to significant financial loss for the dairy industry. Despite decades of research, the cause of this defect has remained elusive. The advent of high-throughput, next-generation sequencing has revolutionized the field of food microbiology and, with respect to this study, provided a means of testing a possible microbial basis for this defect. In this study, a combined 16S rRNA, whole-genome sequencing, and quantitative PCR approach was taken. This resulted in the identification of Thermus, a carotenoid-producing thermophile, in defect-associated cheeses and the recreation of the problem in cheeses to which Thermus was added. This finding has the potential to lead to new strategies to eliminate this defect, and our method represents an approach that can be employed to investigate the role of microbes in other food defects of unknown origin.
A DNA sequencing-based strategy was applied to study the microbiology of Continental-type cheeses with a pink discoloration defect. The basis for this phenomenon has remained elusive, despite decades of research. The bacterial composition of cheese containing the defect was compared to that of control cheese using 16S rRNA gene and shotgun metagenomic sequencing as well as quantitative PCR (qPCR). Throughout, it was apparent that Thermus, a carotenoid-producing genus, was present at higher levels in defect-associated cheeses than in control cheeses. Prompted by this finding and data confirming the pink discoloration to be associated with the presence of a carotenoid, a culture-based approach was employed, and Thermus thermophilus was successfully cultured from defect-containing cheeses. The link between Thermus and the pinking phenomenon was then established through the cheese defect equivalent of Koch’s postulates when the defect was recreated by the reintroduction of a T. thermophilus isolate to a test cheese during the manufacturing process.
IMPORTANCE Pink discoloration in cheese is a defect affecting many cheeses throughout the world, leading to significant financial loss for the dairy industry. Despite decades of research, the cause of this defect has remained elusive. The advent of high-throughput, next-generation sequencing has revolutionized the field of food microbiology and, with respect to this study, provided a means of testing a possible microbial basis for this defect. In this study, a combined 16S rRNA, whole-genome sequencing, and quantitative PCR approach was taken. This resulted in the identification of Thermus, a carotenoid-producing thermophile, in defect-associated cheeses and the recreation of the problem in cheeses to which Thermus was added. This finding has the potential to lead to new strategies to eliminate this defect, and our method represents an approach that can be employed to investigate the role of microbes in other food defects of unknown origin.
PMCID: PMC5069761  PMID: 27822529
carotenoid; cheese; microbiota; pinking; Thermus
7.  Three New Escherichia coli Phages from the Human Gut Show Promising Potential for Phage Therapy 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(6):e0156773.
With the emergence of multi-drug resistant bacteria the use of bacteriophages (phages) is gaining renewed interest as promising anti-microbial agents. The aim of this study was to isolate and characterize phages from human fecal samples. Three new coliphages, ɸAPCEc01, ɸAPCEc02 and ɸAPCEc03, were isolated. Their phenotypic and genomic characteristics, and lytic activity against biofilm, and in combination with ciprofloxacin, were investigated. All three phages reduced the growth of E. coli strain DPC6051 at multiplicity of infection (MOI) between 10−3 and 105. A cocktail of all three phages completely inhibited the growth of E. coli. The phage cocktail also reduced biofilm formation and prevented the emergence of phage-resistant mutants which occurred with single phage. When combined with ciprofloxacin, phage alone or in cocktail inhibited the growth of E. coli and prevented the emergence of resistant mutants. These three new phages are promising biocontrol agents for E. coli infections.
PMCID: PMC4900583  PMID: 27280590
8.  The efficacy of thuricin CD, tigecycline, vancomycin, teicoplanin, rifampicin and nitazoxanide, independently and in paired combinations against Clostridium difficile biofilms and planktonic cells 
Gut Pathogens  2016;8:20.
Thuricin CD is a two-component antimicrobial, belonging to the recently designated sactibiotic subclass of bacteriocins. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of thuricin CD, as well as the antibiotics, tigecycline, vancomycin, teicoplanin, rifampicin and nitazoxanide when used independently and when combined at low concentrations on the viability of Clostridium difficile 20291 R027, TL178 R002, Liv022 R106, DPC6350 and VPI10463 biofilms and planktonic cells.
On the basis of XTT (2,3-bis[2-methyloxy-4-nitro-5-sulphophenyl]-2H-tetrazolium-5-carboxanilide)-menadione biofilm viability assays, we found that thuricin CD was effective against biofilms of R027, Liv022 R106 and DPC6350 when used independently while nitazoxanide and rifampicin were also potent against biofilms of R027 and DPC6350, when applied on their own. Tigecycline was found to be effective against R027 and DPC6350 biofilms, whereas teicoplanin and vancomycin when used independently were only effective against DPC6350 biofilms. The efficacies of the antibiotics rifampicin, tigecycline, vancomycin and teicoplanin against C. difficile 20291 R027 biofilms were significantly potentiated when combined with thuricin CD, indicating effective antimicrobial combinations with this sactibiotic against R027 biofilms. However, the potency of nitazoxanide against R027 biofilms was significantly diminished when combined with thuricin CD, indicating an ineffective combination with this sactibiotic against R027 biofilms. Paired combinations of thuricin CD along with these five antibiotics were effective at diminishing the viability of DPC6350 biofilms. However, such combinations were largely ineffective against biofilms of TL178 R002, Liv022 R106 and VPI10463.
To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to highlight the activity of a sactibiotic bacteriocin against biofilms and the first to reveal the potency of the antibiotics tigecycline, teicoplanin and nitazoxanide against C. difficile biofilms. On the basis of this study, it is apparent that different strains of C. difficile possess varying abilities to form biofilms and that the sensitivities of these biofilms to different antimicrobials and antimicrobial combinations are strain-dependent. Since the formation of relatively strong biofilms by certain C. difficile strains may contribute to increased cases of antibiotic resistance and recurrence and relapse of C. difficile infection, the findings presented in this study could provide alternative strategies to target this pathogen.
PMCID: PMC4890490  PMID: 27257437
Biofilms; Clostridium difficile; Antimicrobial combinations; Tigecycline; Nitazoxanide; Rifampicin
9.  Lantibiotic Resistance 
The dramatic rise in the incidence of antibiotic resistance demands that new therapeutic options will have to be developed. One potentially interesting class of antimicrobials are the modified bacteriocins termed lantibiotics, which are bacterially produced, posttranslationally modified, lanthionine/methyllanthionine-containing peptides. It is interesting that low levels of resistance have been reported for lantibiotics compared with commercial antibiotics. Given that there are very few examples of naturally occurring lantibiotic resistance, attempts have been made to deliberately induce resistance phenotypes in order to investigate this phenomenon. Mechanisms that hinder the action of lantibiotics are often innate systems that react to the presence of any cationic peptides/proteins or ones which result from cell well damage, rather than being lantibiotic specific. Such resistance mechanisms often arise due to altered gene regulation following detection of antimicrobials/cell wall damage by sensory proteins at the membrane. This facilitates alterations to the cell wall or changes in the composition of the membrane. Other general forms of resistance include the formation of spores or biofilms, which are a common mechanistic response to many classes of antimicrobials. In rare cases, bacteria have been shown to possess specific antilantibiotic mechanisms. These are often species specific and include the nisin lytic protein nisinase and the phenomenon of immune mimicry.
PMCID: PMC4394878  PMID: 25787977
10.  Bioengineering of the model lantibiotic nisin 
Bioengineered  2015;6(4):187-192.
The lantibiotics are a class of bacterially produced antimicrobial peptides (bacteriocins) that contain several unusual amino acids resulting from enzyme-mediated post-translational modifications. They exhibit high specific activity against Gram-positive targets, including many antibiotic-resistant pathogens, and consequently have been investigated with a view to their application as antimicrobials in both the food and medical arenas. Importantly, the gene-encoded nature of lantibiotics makes them more amenable to bioengineering strategies to further enhance their antimicrobial and physicochemical properties. However, although the bioengineering of lantibiotics has been underway for over 2 decades, significant progress has only been reported in recent years. This review charts recent developments with regard to the implementation of bioengineering strategies to enhance the functional characteristics of the prototypical and most studied lantibiotic nisin.
PMCID: PMC4601270  PMID: 25970137
antimicrobial peptide; bacteriocin; lantibiotic; nisin; mutagenesis; post-translational modification
11.  Effect of room temperature transport vials on DNA quality and phylogenetic composition of faecal microbiota of elderly adults and infants 
Microbiome  2016;4:19.
Alterations in intestinal microbiota have been correlated with a growing number of diseases. Investigating the faecal microbiota is widely used as a non-invasive and ethically simple proxy for intestinal biopsies. There is an urgent need for collection and transport media that would allow faecal sampling at distance from the processing laboratory, obviating the need for same-day DNA extraction recommended by previous studies of freezing and processing methods for stool. We compared the faecal bacterial DNA quality and apparent phylogenetic composition derived using a commercial kit for stool storage and transport (DNA Genotek OMNIgene GUT) with that of freshly extracted samples, 22 from infants and 20 from older adults.
Use of the storage vials increased the quality of extracted bacterial DNA by reduction of DNA shearing. When infant and elderly datasets were examined separately, no differences in microbiota composition were observed due to storage. When the two datasets were combined, there was a difference according to a Wilcoxon test in the relative proportions of Faecalibacterium, Sporobacter, Clostridium XVIII, and Clostridium XlVa after 1 week’s storage compared to immediately extracted samples. After 2 weeks’ storage, Bacteroides abundance was also significantly different, showing an apparent increase from week 1 to week 2.
The microbiota composition of infant samples was more affected than that of elderly samples by storage, with significantly higher Spearman distances between paired freshly extracted and stored samples (p < 0.001). When the microbiota profiles were analysed at the operational taxonomic unit (OTU) level, three infant datasets in the study did not cluster together, while only one elderly dataset did not. The lower microbiota diversity of the infant gut microbiota compared to the elderly gut microbiota (p < 0.001) means that any alteration in the infant datasets has a proportionally larger effect.
The commercial storage vials appear to be suitable for high diversity microbiota samples, but may be less appropriate for lower diversity samples. Differences between fresh and stored samples mean that where storage is unavoidable, a consistent storage regime should be used. We would recommend extraction ideally within the first week of storage.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s40168-016-0164-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4862223  PMID: 27160322
Microbiome; Microbiota; Storage; Methodology; Infant; Elderly
12.  Nisin H Is a New Nisin Variant Produced by the Gut-Derived Strain Streptococcus hyointestinalis DPC6484 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2015;81(12):3953-3960.
Accumulating evidence suggests that bacteriocin production represents a probiotic trait for intestinal strains to promote dominance, fight infection, and even signal the immune system. In this respect, in a previous study, we isolated from the porcine intestine a strain of Streptococcus hyointestinalis DPC6484 that displays antimicrobial activity against a wide range of Gram-positive bacteria and produces a bacteriocin with a mass of 3,453 Da. Interestingly, the strain was also found to be immune to a nisin-producing strain. Genome sequencing revealed the genetic determinants responsible for a novel version of nisin, designated nisin H, consisting of the nshABTCPRKGEF genes, with transposases encoded between nshP and nshR and between nshK and nshG. A similar gene cluster is also found in S. hyointestinalis LMG14581. Notably, the cluster lacks an equivalent of the nisin immunity gene, nisI. Nisin H is proposed to have the same structure as the prototypical nisin A but differs at 5 amino acid positions—Ile1Phe (i.e., at position 1, nisin A has Ile while nisin H has Phe), Leu6Met, Gly18Dhb (threonine dehydrated to dehydrobutyrine), Met21Tyr, and His31Lys—-and appears to represent an intermediate between the lactococcal nisin A and the streptococcal nisin U variant of nisin. Purified nisin H inhibits a wide range of Gram-positive bacteria, including staphylococci, streptococci, Listeria spp., bacilli, and enterococci. It represents the first example of a natural nisin variant produced by an intestinal isolate of streptococcal origin.
PMCID: PMC4524162  PMID: 25841003
13.  Impact of Environmental Factors on Bacteriocin Promoter Activity in Gut-Derived Lactobacillus salivarius 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2015;81(22):7851-7859.
Bacteriocin production is regarded as a desirable probiotic trait that aids in colonization and persistence in the gastrointestinal tract (GIT). Strains of Lactobacillus salivarius, a species associated with the GIT, are regarded as promising probiotic candidates and have a number of associated bacteriocins documented to date. These include multiple class IIb bacteriocins (salivaricin T, salivaricin P, and ABP-118) and the class IId bacteriocin bactofencin A, which show activity against medically important pathogens. However, the production of a bacteriocin in laboratory media does not ensure production under stressful environmental conditions, such as those encountered within the GIT. To allow this issue to be addressed, the promoter regions located upstream of the structural genes encoding the L. salivarius bacteriocins mentioned above were fused to a number of reporter proteins (green fluorescent protein [GFP], red fluorescent protein [RFP], and luciferase [Lux]). Of these, only transcriptional fusions to GFP generated signals of sufficient strength to enable the study of promoter activity in L. salivarius. While analysis of the class IIb bacteriocin promoter regions indicated relatively weak GFP expression, assessment of the promoter of the antistaphylococcal bacteriocin bactofencin A revealed a strong promoter that is most active in the absence of the antimicrobial peptide and is positively induced in the presence of mild environmental stresses, including simulated gastric fluid. Taken together, these data provide information on factors that influence bacteriocin production, which will assist in the development of strategies to optimize in vivo and in vitro production of these antimicrobials.
PMCID: PMC4616941  PMID: 26341205
14.  In Vitro Activities of Nisin and Nisin Derivatives Alone and In Combination with Antibiotics against Staphylococcus Biofilms 
The development and spread of pathogenic bacteria that are resistant to the existing catalog of antibiotics is a major public health threat. Biofilms are complex, sessile communities of bacteria embedded in an organic polymer matrix which serve to further enhance antimicrobial resistance. Consequently, novel compounds and innovative methods are urgently required to arrest the proliferation of drug-resistant infections in both nosocomial and community environments. Accordingly, it has been suggested that antimicrobial peptides could be used as novel natural inhibitors that can be used in formulations with synergistically acting antibiotics. Nisin is a member of the lantibiotic family of antimicrobial peptides that exhibit potent antibacterial activity against many Gram-positive bacteria. Recently we have used bioengineering strategies to enhance the activity of nisin against several high profile targets, including multi-drug resistant clinical pathogens such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, vancomycin-resistant enterococci, staphylococci, and streptococci associated with bovine mastitis. We have also identified nisin derivatives with an enhanced ability to impair biofilm formation and to reduce the density of established biofilms of methicillin resistant S. pseudintermedius. The present study was aimed at evaluating the potential of nisin and nisin derivatives to increase the efficacy of conventional antibiotics and to assess the possibility of killing and/or eradicating biofilm-associated cells of a variety of staphylococcal targets. Growth curve-based comparisons established that combinations of derivatives nisin V + penicillin or nisin I4V + chloramphenicol had an enhanced inhibitory effect against S. aureus SA113 and S. pseudintermedius DSM21284, respectively, compared to the equivalent nisin A + antibiotic combinations or when each antimicrobial was administered alone. Furthermore, the metabolic activity of established biofilms treated with nisin V + chloramphenicol and nisin I4V + chloramphenicol combinations revealed a significant decrease in S. aureus SA113 and S. pseudintermedius DSM21284 biofilm viability, respectively, compared to the nisin A + antibiotic combinations as determined by the rapid colorimetric XTT assay. The results indicate that the activities of the nisin derivative and antibiotic combinations represent a significant improvement over that of the wild-type nisin and antibiotic combination and merit further investigation with a view to their use as anti-biofilm agents.
PMCID: PMC4834297  PMID: 27148197
biofilm; bacterial resistance; antimicrobial peptide; nisin; lantibiotic; bacteriocin; staphylococci; antibiotics
15.  Looking Beyond the Terrestrial: The Potential of Seaweed Derived Bioactives to Treat Non-Communicable Diseases 
Marine Drugs  2016;14(3):60.
Seaweeds are a large and diverse group of marine organisms that are commonly found in the maritime regions of the world. They are an excellent source of biologically active secondary metabolites and have been shown to exhibit a wide range of therapeutic properties, including anti-cancer, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic activities. Several Asian cultures have a strong tradition of using different varieties of seaweed extensively in cooking as well as in herbal medicines preparations. As such, seaweeds have been used to treat a wide variety of health conditions such as cancer, digestive problems, and renal disorders. Today, increasing numbers of people are adopting a “westernised lifestyle” characterised by low levels of physical exercise and excessive calorific and saturated fat intake. This has led to an increase in numbers of chronic Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes mellitus, being reported. Recently, NCDs have replaced communicable infectious diseases as the number one cause of human mortality. Current medical treatments for NCDs rely mainly on drugs that have been obtained from the terrestrial regions of the world, with the oceans and seas remaining largely an untapped reservoir for exploration. This review focuses on the potential of using seaweed derived bioactives including polysaccharides, antioxidants and fatty acids, amongst others, to treat chronic NCDs such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus.
PMCID: PMC4820313  PMID: 26999166
seaweed; bioactives; non-communicable disease; cancer; diabetes; cardiovascular disease; fucoidan; short-chain fatty acids; prebiotics
16.  The potential for emerging therapeutic options for Clostridium difficile infection 
Gut Microbes  2015;5(6):696-710.
Clostridium difficile is mainly a nosocomial pathogen and is a significant cause of antibiotic-associated diarrhea. It is also implicated in the majority of cases of pseudomembranous colitis. Recently, advancements in next generation sequencing technology (NGS) have highlighted the extent of damage to the gut microbiota caused by broad-spectrum antibiotics, often resulting in C. difficile infection (CDI). Currently the treatment of choice for CDI involves the use of metronidazole and vancomycin. However, recurrence and relapse of CDI, even after rounds of metronidazole/vancomycin administration is a problem that must be addressed. The efficacy of alternative antibiotics such as fidaxomicin, rifaximin, nitazoxanide, ramoplanin and tigecycline, as well as faecal microbiota transplantation has been assessed and some have yielded positive outcomes against C. difficile. Some bacteriocins have also shown promising effects against C. difficile in recent years. In light of this, the potential for emerging treatment options and efficacy of anti-C. difficile vaccines are discussed in this review.
PMCID: PMC4615897  PMID: 25564777
antibiotics; Clostridium difficile; faecal microbiota transplantation; toxins; vaccines
17.  Efficacies of Nisin A and Nisin V Semipurified Preparations Alone and in Combination with Plant Essential Oils for Controlling Listeria monocytogenes 
The food-borne pathogenic bacterium Listeria is known for relatively low morbidity and high mortality rates, reaching up to 25 to 30%. Listeria is a hardy organism, and its control in foods represents a significant challenge. Many naturally occurring compounds, including the bacteriocin nisin and a number of plant essential oils, have been widely studied and are reported to be effective as antimicrobial agents against spoilage and pathogenic microorganisms. The aim of this study was to investigate the ability of semipurified preparations (SPP) containing either nisin A or an enhanced bioengineered derivative, nisin V, alone and in combination with low concentrations of the essential oils thymol, carvacrol, and trans-cinnamaldehyde, to control Listeria monocytogenes in both laboratory media and model food systems. Combinations of nisin V-containing SPP (25 μg/ml) with thymol (0.02%), carvacrol (0.02%), or cinnamaldehyde (0.02%) produced a significantly longer lag phase than any of the essential oil-nisin A combinations. In addition, the log reduction in cell counts achieved by the nisin V-carvacrol or nisin V-cinnamaldehyde combinations was twice that of the equivalent nisin A-essential oil treatment. Significantly, this enhanced activity was validated in model food systems against L. monocytogenes strains of food origin. We conclude that the fermentate form of nisin V in combination with carvacrol and cinnamaldehyde offers significant advantages as a novel, natural, and effective means to enhance food safety by inhibiting food-borne pathogens such as L. monocytogenes.
PMCID: PMC4375310  PMID: 25662980
18.  Isolation of a Novel Phage with Activity against Streptococcus mutans Biofilms 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(9):e0138651.
Streptococcus mutans is one of the principal agents of caries formation mainly, because of its ability to form biofilms at the tooth surface. Bacteriophages (phages) are promising antimicrobial agents that could be used to prevent or treat caries formation by S. mutans. The aim of this study was to isolate new S. mutans phages and to characterize their antimicrobial properties. A new phage, ɸAPCM01, was isolated from a human saliva sample. Its genome was closely related to the only two other available S. mutans phage genomes, M102 and M102AD. ɸAPCM01 inhibited the growth of S. mutans strain DPC6143 within hours in broth and in artificial saliva at multiplicity of infections as low as 2.5x10-5. In the presence of phage ɸAPCM01 the metabolic activity of a S. mutans biofilm was reduced after 24 h of contact and did not increased again after 48 h, and the live cells in the biofilm decreased by at least 5 log cfu/ml. Despite its narrow host range, this newly isolated S. mutans phage exhibits promising antimicrobial properties.
PMCID: PMC4580409  PMID: 26398909
19.  In silico identification of bacteriocin gene clusters in the gastrointestinal tract, based on the Human Microbiome Project’s reference genome database 
BMC Microbiology  2015;15:183.
The human gut microbiota comprises approximately 100 trillion microbial cells which significantly impact many aspects of human physiology - including metabolism, nutrient absorption and immune function. Disturbances in this population have been implicated in many conditions and diseases, including obesity, type-2 diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease. This suggests that targeted manipulation or shaping of the gut microbiota, by bacteriocins and other antimicrobials, has potential as a therapeutic tool for the prevention or treatment of these conditions. With this in mind, several studies have used traditional culture-dependent approaches to successfully identify bacteriocin-producers from the mammalian gut. In silico-based approaches to identify novel gene clusters are now also being utilised to take advantage of the vast amount of data currently being generated by next generation sequencing technologies. In this study, we employed an in silico screening approach to mine potential bacteriocin clusters in genome-sequenced isolates from the gastrointestinal tract (GIT). More specifically, the bacteriocin genome-mining tool BAGEL3 was used to identify potential bacteriocin producers in the genomes of the GIT subset of the Human Microbiome Project’s reference genome database. Each of the identified gene clusters were manually annotated and potential bacteriocin-associated genes were evaluated.
We identified 74 clusters of note from 59 unique members of the Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria, Fusobacteria and Synergistetes. The most commonly identified class of bacteriocin was the >10 kDa class, formerly known as bacteriolysins, followed by lantibiotics and sactipeptides.
Multiple bacteriocin gene clusters were identified in a dataset representative of the human gut microbiota. Interestingly, many of these were associated with species and genera which are not typically associated with bacteriocin production.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12866-015-0515-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4573289  PMID: 26377179
20.  The Anti-Inflammatory Effect of Algae-Derived Lipid Extracts on Lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-Stimulated Human THP-1 Macrophages 
Marine Drugs  2015;13(8):5402-5424.
Algae contain a number of anti-inflammatory bioactive compounds such as omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFA) and chlorophyll a, hence as dietary ingredients, their extracts may be effective in chronic inflammation-linked metabolic diseases such as cardiovascular disease. In this study, anti-inflammatory potential of lipid extracts from three red seaweeds (Porphyra dioica, Palmaria palmata and Chondrus crispus) and one microalga (Pavlova lutheri) were assessed in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated human THP-1 macrophages. Extracts contained 34%–42% total fatty acids as n-3 PUFA and 5%–7% crude extract as pigments, including chlorophyll a, β-carotene and fucoxanthin. Pretreatment of the THP-1 cells with lipid extract from P. palmata inhibited production of the pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin (IL)-6 (p < 0.05) and IL-8 (p < 0.05) while that of P. lutheri inhibited IL-6 (p < 0.01) production. Quantitative gene expression analysis of a panel of 92 genes linked to inflammatory signaling pathway revealed down-regulation of the expression of 14 pro-inflammatory genes (TLR1, TLR2, TLR4, TLR8, TRAF5, TRAF6, TNFSF18, IL6R, IL23, CCR1, CCR4, CCL17, STAT3, MAP3K1) by the lipid extracts. The lipid extracts effectively inhibited the LPS-induced pro-inflammatory signaling pathways mediated via toll-like receptors, chemokines and nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-κB) signaling molecules. These results suggest that lipid extracts from P. lutheri, P. palmata, P. dioica and C. crispus can inhibit LPS-induced inflammatory pathways in human macrophages. Therefore, algal lipid extracts should be further explored as anti-inflammatory ingredients for chronic inflammation-linked metabolic diseases.
PMCID: PMC4557028  PMID: 26308008
microalgae; macroalgae; THP-1; inflammation; lipids; n-3 PUFA; polyunsaturated fatty acids; macrophages; chlorophyll a; bioactive pigments
21.  The Genome of the Predominant Equine Lactobacillus Species, Lactobacillus equi, Is Reflective of Its Lifestyle Adaptations to an Herbivorous Host 
Genome Announcements  2014;2(1):e01155-13.
We report the draft genome sequence of Lactobacillus equi strain DPC6820, isolated from equine feces. L. equi is a predominant Lactobacillus species in the horse hindgut microbiota. An examination of the genome identified genes and enzymes highlighting L. equi adaptations to the herbivorous gastrointestinal tract of the horse, including fructan hydrolases. This genome sequence may help us further understand the microbial ecology of the equine hindgut and the influence lactobacilli have on it.
PMCID: PMC3894277  PMID: 24435863
22.  Movers and shakers 
Gut Microbes  2013;4(1):4-16.
The human intestinal microbiota is one of the most densely populated ecosystems on Earth, containing up to 1013 bacteria/g and in some respects can be considered an organ itself given its role in human health. Bacteriophages (phages) are the most abundant replicating entities on the planet and thrive wherever their bacterial hosts exist. They undoubtedly influence the dominant microbial populations in many ecosystems including the human intestine. Within this setting, lysogeny appears to be the preferred life cycle, presumably due to nutrient limitations and lack of suitable hosts protected in biofilms, hence the predator/prey dynamic observed in many ecosystems is absent. On the other hand, free virulent phages in the gut are more common among sufferers of intestinal diseases and have been shown to increase with antibiotic usage. Many of these phages evolve from prophages of intestinal bacteria and emerge under conditions where their bacterial hosts encounter stress suggesting that prophages can significantly alter the microbial community composition. Based on these observations, we propose the “community shuffling” model which hypothesizes that prophage induction contributes to intestinal dysbiosis by altering the ratio of symbionts to pathobionts, enabling pathobiont niche reoccupation. The consequences of the increased phage load on the mammalian immune system are also addressed. While this is an area of intestinal biology which has received little attention, this review assembles evidence from the literature which supports the role of phages as one of the biological drivers behind the composition of the gut microbiota.
PMCID: PMC3555884  PMID: 23022738
gut; microbiota; bacteriophages; phages; prophages; induction; community shuffling
23.  The Gut Microbiota Composition in Dichorionic Triplet Sets Suggests a Role for Host Genetic Factors 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(4):e0122561.
Monozygotic and dizygotic twin studies investigating the relative roles of host genetics and environmental factors in shaping gut microbiota composition have produced conflicting results. In this study, we investigated the gut microbiota composition of a healthy dichorionic triplet set. The dichorionic triplet set contained a pair of monozygotic twins and a fraternal sibling, with similar pre- and post-natal environmental conditions including feeding regime. V4 16S rRNA and rpoB amplicon pyrosequencing was employed to investigate microbiota composition, and the species and strain diversity of the culturable bifidobacterial population was also examined. At month 1, the monozygotic pair shared a similar microbiota distinct to the fraternal sibling. By month 12 however, the profile was more uniform between the three infants. Principal coordinate analysis (PCoA) of the microbiota composition revealed strong clustering of the monozygotic pair at month 1 and a separation of the fraternal infant. At months 2 and 3 the phylogenetic distance between the monozygotic pair and the fraternal sibling has greatly reduced and by month 12 the monozygotic pair no longer clustered separately from the fraternal infant. Pulse field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) analysis of the bifidobacterial population revealed a lack of strain diversity, with identical strains identified in all three infants at month 1 and 12. The microbiota of two antibiotic-treated dichorionic triplet sets was also investigated. Not surprisingly, in both triplet sets early life antibiotic administration appeared to be a major determinant of microbiota composition at month 1, irrespective of zygosity. By month 12, early antibiotic administration appeared to no longer exert such a strong influence on gut microbiota composition. We hypothesize that initially host genetics play a significant role in the composition of an individual’s gut microbiota, unless an antibiotic intervention is given, but by month 12 environmental factors are the major determinant.
PMCID: PMC4396853  PMID: 25874766
24.  Bactofencin A, a New Type of Cationic Bacteriocin with Unusual Immunity 
mBio  2013;4(6):e00498-13.
Bacteriocin production is an important probiotic trait of intestinal bacteria. In this study, we identify a new type of bacteriocin, bactofencin A, produced by a porcine intestinal isolate Lactobacillus salivarius DPC6502, and assess its potency against pathogenic species including Staphylococcus aureus and Listeria monocytogenes. Genome sequencing of the bacteriocin producer revealed bfnA, which encodes the mature and highly basic (pI 10.59), 22-amino-acid defensin-like peptide. Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization–time of flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectral analysis determined that bactofencin A has a molecular mass of 2,782 Da and contains two cysteine residues that form an intramolecular disulfide bond. Although an ABC transporter and transport accessory protein were also present within the bacteriocin gene cluster, a classical bacteriocin immunity gene was not detected. Interestingly, a dltB homologue was identified downstream of bfnA. DltB is usually encoded within the dlt operon of many Gram-positive bacteria. It is responsible for d-alanylation of teichoic acids in the cell wall and has previously been associated with bacterial resistance to cationic antimicrobial peptides. Heterologous expression of this gene conferred bactofencin A-specific immunity on sensitive strains of L. salivarius and S. aureus (although not L. monocytogenes), establishing its role in bacteriocin immunity. An analysis of the distribution of bfnA revealed that it was present in four additional isolates derived from porcine origin and absent from five human isolates, suggesting that its distribution is host specific. Given its novelty, we anticipate that bactofencin A represents the prototype of a new class of bacteriocins characterized as being cationic, with a DltB homologue providing a cognate immunity function.
This study describes the identification, purification, and characterization of bactofencin A, a novel type of bacteriocin produced by L. salivarius DPC6502. Interestingly, bactofencin A is not similar to any other known bacteriocin but instead shares similarity with eukaryotic cationic antimicrobial peptides, and here, we demonstrate that it inhibits two medically significant pathogens. Genome sequence analysis of the producing strain also revealed the presence of an atypical dltB homologue in the bacteriocin gene cluster, which was lacking a classical bacteriocin immunity gene. Furthermore, cloning this gene rendered sensitive strains resistant to the bacteriocin, thereby establishing its role in providing cognate bacteriocin immunity. Four additional L. salivarius isolates, also of porcine origin, were found to contain the bacteriocin biosynthesis genes and successfully produced bactofencin A, while these genes were absent from five human-derived strains investigated.
PMCID: PMC3809560  PMID: 24169573
25.  A Bioengineered Nisin Derivative to Control Biofilms of Staphylococcus pseudintermedius 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(3):e0119684.
Antibiotic resistance and the shortage of novel antimicrobials are among the biggest challenges facing society. One of the major factors contributing to resistance is the use of frontline clinical antibiotics in veterinary practice. In order to properly manage dwindling antibiotic resources, we must identify antimicrobials that are specifically targeted to veterinary applications. Nisin is a member of the lantibiotic family of antimicrobial peptides that exhibit potent antibacterial activity against many gram-positive bacteria, including human and animal pathogens such as Staphylococcus, Bacillus, Listeria, and Clostridium. Although not currently used in human medicine, nisin is already employed commercially as an anti-mastitis product in the veterinary field. Recently we have used bioengineering strategies to enhance the activity of nisin against several high profile targets, including multi-drug resistant clinical pathogens such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) and also against staphylococci and streptococci associated with bovine mastitis. However, newly emerging pathogens such as methicillin resistant Staphylococcus pseudintermedius (MRSP) pose a significant threat in terms of veterinary health and as a reservoir for antibiotic resistance determinants. In this study we created a nisin derivative with enhanced antimicrobial activity against S. pseudintermedius. In addition, the novel nisin derivative exhibits an enhanced ability to impair biofilm formation and to reduce the density of established biofilms. The activities of this peptide represent a significant improvement over that of the wild-type nisin peptide and merit further investigation with a view to their use to treat S. pseudintermedius infections.
PMCID: PMC4366236  PMID: 25789988

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