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"Extreme diets are becoming very popular but we do not know the long-term effects on human health and specifically on the health of the human gut flora," Abel-Santos said. "We have to look at humans to see if it correlates."
Recent studies suggest that because antibiotics kill bacterial species indiscriminately, the medications decimate populations of organisms that compete for amino acids, leaving C. diff free to propagate.
But Hedlund said the story is even more complex. "It's clear that it's not just a numbers game," he said. The new work suggests that diet may promote microbial groups that can be protective, even after antibiotics. For an infection to flourish, he said, "you might need this combination of wiping out C. diff competitors with antibiotics and then a diet that promotes overgrowth and disease."
The new study raised other questions as well. For example: The high-carb diet, which was protective against C. diff infection, gave rise to the least diverse community of microbes.
"Lots of papers say that a lower microbial diversity is always a bad thing, but in this case, it had the best disease outcome," said Abel-Santos. However, he cautions that a high-carb diet could lead to animals becoming asymptomatic carriers that can disseminate the infection to susceptible subjects.
The Abel-Santos lab has been working with C. diff for 12 years with the goal of developing compounds that could prevent infections from this bacterium. The Hedlund lab has been working with C. diff for five years, focusing on the role of diet in infection. This collaboration was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health. Source:
University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) Journal reference:
Mefferd, C.C., et al. (2020) A High-Fat/High-Protein, Atkins-Type Diet Exacerbates Clostridioides (Clostridium) Difficile Infection in Mice, Whereas a High-Carbohydrate Diet Protects. mSystems . doi.org/10.1128/mSystems.00765-19 .
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