The majority of the 100 trillion bacteria either living in and/or on humans reside in the gastrointestinal tract. Most of these bacteria (microbiota) are useful for humans. They support digestion and have a positive impact on metabolism and on the immune system. They inhabit ecological niches in the gut preventing infectious disease pathogens from intruding. However, the gastrointestinal tract is also a target for some significant human pathogens that are being investigated in the research field “Gastrointestinal Infections”. The precise composition of microbiota plays a role in preventing or promoting certain infections, such as those caused by Salmonella or Clostridium difficile. Using animal models, DZIF researchers investigate the interactions between humans, microbiota and pathogens. Their long-term goal is to influence the gut flora in such a way that it benefits the patient.
Current clinical trials are focusing on analysing the impact of the microbiome on infections caused by Clostridium difficile. C. difficile is one of the most common hospital pathogens. Infections caused by Clostridia are facilitated when antibiotic treatment affects the natural gut flora. The pathogen subsequently begins to replicate and produces increasing amounts of toxins in the gut, causing diarrhoea and life-threatening damage to the gut wall. Researchers aim to understand which bacteria help prevent infections caused by Clostridium difficile and to develop strategies to either prevent infection by using selected antibiotics or by specifically replacing the bacteria during antibiotic treatment.