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Research Highlights

July 2013

Salmonella Infection Is a Battle Between Good and Bad Bacteria in the Gut

New insights into food poisoning show Salmonella have a novel sugar preference

During Salmonella infection, populations of host bacteria decrease, sugars become abundant, and host inflammation abounds. Enlarge image.

The blockbuster battles between good and evil are not just on the big screen this summer. A new study that examined food poisoning infection as it happens in mice revealed harmful bacteria, such as a common type of Salmonella, take over beneficial bacteria within the gut amid previously unseen changes to the gut environment. The results provide new insights into the course of infection and could lead to better prevention or new treatments.

"We're trying to tease apart a largely unknown area of biology," said systems biologist Josh Adkins and team lead at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. "Infection changes the populations of bacteria in the gut with resulting inflammation. We want to understand the interplay between these events."

Out this week in PLoS ONE, the study shows that Salmonella Typhimurium might use the sugar fucose either as a sign that it has found a good place to reproduce or use fucose to sustain itself during infection, or both. This was the first time researchers saw fucose as an important player during Salmonella infection.

"We were taken completely by surprise with the fucose results," said Adkins. They also saw other sugars that normally are eaten by resident bacteria going untouched. "By knowing what the bacteria eat, we can try to promote the good bacteria and throw off the battle."

See the rest of this PNNL News Release and the feature in the June 27 Scientific American.


Sponsors: This work was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. This work used instrumentation and capabilities developed under support from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences grant 8 P41 GM103493-10 and the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research (DOE-BER). Significant portions of this work were performed in the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a DOE-BER national scientific user facility located at PNNL.

User Facility: Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory

Research Team: Brooke L. Deatherage Kaiser, Jie Li, James A. Sanford, Young-Mo Kim, Scott R. Kronewitter, Marcus B. Jones, Christine T. Peterson, Scott N. Peterson, Bryan C. Frank, Samuel O. Purvine, Joseph N. Brown, Thomas O. Metz, Richard D. Smith, Fred Heffron, and Joshua N. Adkins.

Reference: Deatherage BL, J Li, JA Sanford, YM Kim, SR Kronewitter, MB Jones, C Peterson, S Peterson, BC Frank, SO Purvine, JN Brown, TO Metz, RD Smith, F Heffron, and JN Adkins.  2013.  "A Multi-Omic View of Host-Pathogen-Commensal Interplay in Salmonella-Mediated Intestinal Infection." PLoS ONE (6):e67155. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0067155.

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