Cholera is a contagion that causes chronic diarrhea brought on through the intake of food or water contaminated with the Vibrio cholerae bacterium. Cholera affects roughly 4 million people per year, leaving victims severely dehydrated and killing within hours if left untreated.
The gut microbiome, a symbiotic microbial colony residing in the gastrointestinal tract, has been implicated in the body’s resistance to pathogens such as Vibrio cholerae. The molecular mechanisms controlling this resistance or susceptibility to intestinal pathogens are still poorly understood, however.
Now, a study from researchers at the University of California – Riverside, shows differences in the gut microbiome between individuals determine resistance to cholera infection. The team states their findings suggest new personalized targets to prevent cholera infection through the modulation of the structure and function of the gut microbiome. The opensource study is published in the journal Cell.
How cholera acts in the gut
Previous studies show once Vibrio cholerae enters the body, the presence of bile and lack of oxygen in the gut triggers previously dormant genes enabling it to survive in its human host. The activated genes are responsible for cholera’s virulence, enabling Vibrio cholerae to attach to intestinal walls and cause diarrhea.
Recent studies have indicated the virulent ability of numerous pathogens is dependent on the status of the gut microbiome, known to vary dramatically between individuals due to diet, economic status, and geography. The current study investigates whether the human microbiome can protect people from cholera.
How the gut fights disease
The current study transplants differing human microbiomes into several animal models of cholera infection to show the activity of the enzyme hydrolase produced by the bacteria Blautia obeum regulates the effects of this disease in the body.
Results show Blautia obeum produces hydrolase which in turn degrades salts found in bile, used by Vibrio cholerae as signals to control gene activity. Data findings show when these bile salts are corrupted, the cholera-causing bacteria does not receive the signal to activate the dormant genes responsible for causing infection.
The lab states they have successfully demonstrated personal human gut microbiome variation confers changeable infection resistance that can be restored through co-transplantation. They go on to add as the Blautia obeum microbiota species has been proven to make people less susceptible to cholera, they will now work on ways to increase its presence in the gut.
The gut could also fight COVID-19
The team surmises they have demonstrated the gut microbiome confers resistance against cholera, meaning not everyone exposed to the disease gets sick. For the future, the researchers state they are now investigating how the novel coronavirus alters the microbiome.
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