Diarrhea Explained by Levels of Escherichia

January 22, 2016
Rachel Lutz

Controlling the levels of specific gut bacteria could be useful in preventing severe diarrhea, according to findings published in the journal Microbiome.

Controlling the levels of specific gut bacteria could be useful in preventing severe diarrhea, according to findings published in the journal Microbiome.

Researchers from Michigan State University used DNA sequencing from gut microbiomes in patients with diarrhea to determine what bacterial communities are effective in reducing severe diarrhea. The researchers compared the microbiomes of the sick patients with the microbiomes of healthy family members and found major differences between the sick and healthy populations.

The most drastic contrast came from the differences in the level of Escherichia, bacteria commonly found in the intestines that can sometimes be pathogenic.

“Compared to the uninfected patients in the study, the patients who were infected with four different diarrheal pathogens — Salmonella, Shiga toxin producing E. coli, Campylobacter, and Shigella — all had increased levels of Escherichia,” study leader Shannon Manning, explained in a press release. “In addition, patients had a decrease in the Escherichia population after they recovered.”

The researchers said that one surprising finding was that the changes in the microbiomes from patients were all altered in a similar way, no matter what the bacteria causing the infection was. They also discovered that patients with a specific microbial community profile had more a more severe form of the disease compared to others. The changes were similar no matter the patient’s age, gender, or race.

The researchers hope that their findings would allow more extensive examinations of diarrhea treatment strategies involving probiotics or therapeutics aimed at increasing beneficial microbes.

Another beneficial therapeutic route to explore is a more rapid way to decrease Proteobacteria populations — a group of many pathogens that includes Escherichia. The new treatments, the study authors said, may be able to reduce the burden of intestinal infections and allow for faster recoveries.