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New research reveals the damaging role of a superbug in the gut

New research reveals the damaging role of a superbug in the gut

Fuorescent pictures of a human colon organoid stained for E-cadherin  in red and DAPI in blue. Credit: Dr Thierry Jarde

An ARC-supported research collaboration at Monash University's Biomedicine Discovery Institute has revealed that a bacterial superbug can prevent stem cells in the gut from carrying out their vital role of regenerating the inner lining of the intestine. This causes potentially severe disease, particularly in the elderly.

The research team, which included ARC Future Fellow, Professor Dena Lyras, found that Clostridioides difficile infection, the most common cause of hospital-acquired diarrhoea, damages colonic stem cells via a toxin called TcdB, impairing tissue repair in the gut and recovery from disease.

It grows after antibiotic treatment is administered to a patient, where it can upset the host-microbial balance in the gut allowing the bacterium to colonise. More than 90% of mortalities resulting from infections are caused by Clostridioides difficile.

Professor Helen Abud says the study provides the first direct evidence that a microbial infection alters the functional capacity of gut stem cells.

‘It adds a layer of understanding about how the gut repairs after infection and why this superbug can cause the severe damage that it does. The reason it's important to have that understanding is that we're rapidly running out of antibiotics – we need to find other ways to prevent and treat these infections.’

The findings could have wider implications for those going through treatments for cancer such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy that also damage the gut.


By understanding this new mechanism of damage and repair, the researchers hope to find ways to prevent the damage from happening or develop new treatments.


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