Typically, there aren’t a lot of positive thoughts when E. coli, generally found in animal and human intestines, is mentioned. It’s been blamed for closing beaches and swimming pools and shuttering restaurants because of contamination in salad bars, meats or other food items.
But for more than a century, one strain of the bacteria, E. coli Nissle 1917, has been used as a probiotic and therapeutic agent. Currently, it is used in some countries to treat intestinal inflammation.
Now researchers at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine say E. coli Nissle may also protect human cells against other more pathogenic strains of E. coli such as E. coli 0157:H7, which is commonly associated with contaminated hamburger meat.
Alison Weiss, PhD, professor, and Suman Pradhan, PhD, research associate, both in in the UC Department of Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry and Microbiology, used stem cell-derived human intestinal organoid tissues to evaluate the safety of Nissle and its ability to protect from pathogenic E. coli bacteria 0157:H7.
They found that human intestinal tissues (HIO) were not harmed by the Nissle bacteria introduced into human intestinal organoids while pathogenic E. coli bacteria destroyed the epithelial layer of the HIO. More importantly, Nissle protected the HIOs when added prior to pathogenic E. coli bacterial infection.
The study’s findings are available online in mBio, the scholarly journal of the American Society for Microbiology. Advances in this area of scientific discovery align with the university's strategic direction, Next Lives Here.