This month, scientists in Ireland have published their discovery of a new compound that inhibits Clostridium difficile bacteria.
The compound, thuricin CD, was detected by screening over 30,000 samples from human faeces for the ability to destroy C. difficile bacteria.
C. difficile- associated diseases, which can cause severe diarrhoea and infections of the colon, have presented serious problems in hospitals in the last decade. The emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains has led to infections caused by this “hospital superbug” being extremely difficult to treat.
The research team, led by Professor Colin Hill at the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre in Cork, Ireland, predicted that bacteria isolated from the human gut could be a good source of bactericidal compounds that could destroy related bacteria like C.difficile.
Infections are most common following patient treatment with antibiotics for other conditions; this can lead to the normal gut flora being wiped out, allowing C.difficile infections to take hold. In 2008 nearly 6000 people contracted C.diffcile infections in England and Wales.
Other compounds that destroy C.difficile, such as Nisin, also destroy gut flora, thus rendering patients susceptible to further infections and slowing recovery.
The scientists found that thuricin CD could inhibit a range of C.difficile strains, including the hypervirulent type, without having an effect on other bacterial species that contribute to gut health.
The research, published in peer-reviewed journal PNAS, used a model of the human colon to show that thuricin CD is similarly as effective in destroying C.difficile as metronidazol, an antibiotic currently used to treat C.difficile infections. This, along with its lack of effect on normal healthy gut flora, suggests that thuricin CD potentially provides a new avenue of treatment for C.difficile associated diseases.