Without Fiber, Gut Bacteria Begin To Eat Our Intestinal Lining

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Mahesh Desai, PhD Principal Investigator Allergology - Immunology - Inflammation Research Unit Department of Infection and Immunity Luxembourg Institute of Health Luxembourg

Dr. Mahesh Desai

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Over the last few decades, our intake of dietary fiber has fallen drastically mainly due to the consumption of processed food, which has been connected to increased cases of intestinal diseases including colon cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. The gut microbiota is essential for us as it allows our body to digest dietary fiber contained in fruits and vegetables, that could otherwise not be processed. Changed physiologies and abundances of the gut microbiota following a fiber-deprived diet have been commonly linked to several intestinal diseases. However, the mechanisms behind these connections have remained poorly understood.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: Here, we investigated the impact of high-fiber and fiber-deprived diets on the gut microbiota composition and physiology, and the resulting effects on the colonic mucus barrier, which serves as the host’s first line of defense. For this, we selected 14 representative, well-characterised bacterial species from the human gut to colonize the intestines of germ-free mice.

We show that a fiber-deprived diet leads to increased abundance of the colonic mucus-degrading bacteria, which progressively erode the colonic mucus barrier. We further showed that an eroded mucus barrier together with a fiber-deprived gut microbiota enhances susceptibility to enteric pathogens.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: A simple take home message of our study is that if we don’t eat fiber, the gut bacteria will start eating ourselves. These findings have implications for understanding not only the role of fiber in a normal diet, but also the potential of using fiber to counter the effects of digestive tract disorders. Furthermore, our study shows that the “holes” created by our microbiota while eroding the mucus serve as wide open doors for enteric pathogens to easily reach the host tissue and cause severe colitis.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Going forward, we intend to look at the impact of different prebiotic fiber mixes, and of diets with more intermitted natural fiber content over a longer period. We also want to look for biomarkers that could give information about the status of the mucus layer in human guts – such as the abundance of mucus-digesting bacterial strains, and the effect of low fiber on chronic disease such as inflammatory bowel disease.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: This study was funded by the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) and the National Institutes of Health.

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.


Mahesh S. Desai et al. A Dietary Fiber-Deprived Gut Microbiota Degrades the Colonic Mucus Barrier and Enhances Pathogen Susceptibility. Cell, November 2016
DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2016.10.043

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Last Updated on November 21, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD