Bile salt metabolism is not the only factor contributing to Clostridioides (Clostridium) difficile disease severity in the murine model of disease

Caitlin A. Jukes, Umer Zeeshan Ijaz, Anthony Buckley, Janice Spencer, June Irvine, Denise Candlish, Jia V. Li, Julian R. Marchesi*, Gillian Douce*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
71 Downloads (Pure)


Susceptibility of patients to antibiotic-associated C. difficile disease is intimately associated with specific changes to gut microbiome composition. In particular, loss of microbes that modify bile salt acids (BSA) play a central role; primary bile acids stimulate spore germination whilst secondary bile acids limit C. difficile vegetative growth. To determine the relative contribution of bile salt (BS) metabolism on C. difficile disease severity, we treated mice with three combinations of antibiotics prior to infection. Mice given clindamycin alone became colonized but displayed no tissue pathology while severe disease, exemplified by weight loss and inflammatory tissue damage occurred in animals given a combination of five antibiotics and clindamycin. Animals given only the five antibiotic cocktails showed only transient colonization and no disease. C. difficile colonization was associated with a reduction in bacterial diversity, an inability to amplify bile salt hydrolase (BSH) sequences from fecal DNA and a relative increase in primary bile acids (pBA) in cecal lavages from infected mice. Further, the link between BSA modification and the microbiome was confirmed by the isolation of strains of Lactobacillus murinus that modified primary bile acids in vitro, thus preventing C. difficile germination. Interestingly, BSH activity did not correlate with disease severity which appeared linked to alternations in mucin, which may indirectly lead to increased exposure of the epithelial surface to inflammatory signals. These data confirm the role of microbial metabolic activity in protection of the gut and highlights the need for greater understanding the function of bacterial communities in disease prevention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-496
Number of pages16
JournalGut Microbes
Issue number3
Early online date2 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2020


  • Bile salt metabolism
  • Clostridium difficile
  • germination
  • antibiotics
  • disease severity


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