MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Professor Robert Britton PhD
Therapeutic Microbiology Laboratory
Department of Molecular Virology and Microbiology
Alkek Center for Metagenomics and Microbiome Research
Baylor College of Medicine
MedicalResearch.com Interview: How would you summarise your findings?
Response: As a brief summary of our work, certain strains of Clostridium difficile have emerged in the past 20 years that have resulted in epidemics worldwide, leading to C. difficile becoming one of the most common causes of hospital acquired infections. Two ribotypes of C. difficile, RT027 and RT078, emerged as key epidemic ribotypes associated with increased disease prevalence and increased mortality in patients. We found that both of these ribotypes have acquired the ability to consume the disaccharide trehalose by two completely independent mechanisms. We further show that trehalose enhances disease severity of C. difficile infection in a manner that requires C. difficile to metabolize trehalose in mice. We also show that trehalose is present in the distal intestine of mice and humans in concentrations that the RT027 ribotype can metabolize. Because RT027 and RT078 strains were present in clinics at least 10-20 years prior to their becoming epidemic isolates, we looked where people would acquire trehalose in the diet.
In 2000 the FDA approved trehalose for human consumption (EFSA did so in 2001) and based on the GRAS report from the FDA the amount of trehalose predicted to be consumed once released on the market would vastly increase what people get naturally from the diet. Our data support that these two ribotypes increased in prevalence due to a change in the human diet.