• Molecular Characterisation of Bacteriophage K Towards Applications for the Biocontrol of Pathogenic Staphylococci

      O’Flaherty, Sarah; Flynn, Jimmy; Coffey, Aidan; Fitzgerald, Gerald; Meaney, William J; Ross, R Paul (Teagasc, 01/01/2006)
      The aim of this work was to characterise staphylococcal bacteriophage (a bacterial virus) and to assess their potential as therapeutic agents against pathogenic strains of Staphylococcus aureus, particularly mastitis-causing strains. The project included the use of two newly isolated phage CS1 and DW2, and an existing polyvalent phage. The new phage were isolated from the farmyard and characterised by electron microscopy and restriction analysis. Both phage were shown to belong to the Siphoviridae family and were lytic for representatives of all three clonal groups of Irish mastitis-associated staphylococci. A cocktail of three phage (CS1, DW2 and K) at 108 (plaque forming units) PFU/ml was infused into cows teats in animal trials. The lack of an increase in somatic cell counts in milks indicated strongly that the phage did not irritate the animal. In addition, the most potent phage used in this study, phage K, was further studied by genome sequencing, which revealed a linear DNA genome of 127,395 base pairs, which encodes 118 putative ORFs (open reading frames).
    • In vivo activity of Nisin A and Nisin V against Listeria monocytogenes in mice

      Campion, Alicia; Casey, Patrick G.; Field, Des; Cotter, Paul D.; Hill, Colin; Ross, R Paul; Programme for Research in Third-Level Institutions; Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology; Enterprise Ireland; Science Foundation Ireland (Biomed Central, 01/02/2013)
      Background: Lantibiotics are post-translationally modified antimicrobial peptides, of which nisin A is the most extensively studied example. Bioengineering of nisin A has resulted in the generation of derivatives with increased in vitro potency against Gram-positive bacteria. Of these, nisin V (containing a Met21Val change) is noteworthy by virtue of exhibiting enhanced antimicrobial efficacy against a wide range of clinical and food-borne pathogens, including Listeria monocytogenes. However, this increased potency has not been tested in vivo. Results: Here we address this issue by assessing the ability of nisin A and nisin V to control a bioluminescent strain of Listeria monocytogenes EGDe in a murine infection model. More specifically, Balb/c mice were infected via the intraperitoneal route at a dose of 1 × 105 cfu/animal and subsequently treated intraperitoneally with either nisin V, nisin A or a PBS control. Bioimaging of the mice was carried out on day 3 of the trial. Animals were then sacrificed and levels of infection were quantified in the liver and spleen. Conclusion: This analysis revealed that nisin V was more effective than Nisin A with respect to controlling infection and therefore merits further investigation with a view to potential chemotherapeutic applications.
    • Lactobacillus ruminis strains cluster according to their mammalian gut source

      O’Donnell, Michelle M.; Harris, Hugh M B; Lynch, Denise B; Ross, R Paul; O’Toole, Paul W.; Science Foundation Ireland; 07/IN.1/B1780 (Biomed Central, 01/04/2015)
      Background Lactobacillus ruminis is a motile Lactobacillus that is autochthonous to the human gut, and which may also be isolated from other mammals. Detailed characterization of L. ruminis has previously been restricted to strains of human and bovine origin. We therefore sought to expand our bio-bank of strains to identify and characterise isolates of porcine and equine origin by comparative genomics. Results We isolated five strains from the faeces of horses and two strains from pigs, and compared their motility, biochemistry and genetic relatedness to six human isolates and three bovine isolates including the type strain 27780T. Multilocus sequence typing analysis based on concatenated sequence data for six individual loci separated the 16 L. ruminis strains into three clades concordant with human, bovine or porcine, and equine sources. Sequencing the genomes of four additional strains of human, bovine, equine and porcine origin revealed a high level of genome synteny, independent of the source animal. Analysis of carbohydrate utilization, stress survival and technological robustness in a combined panel of sixteen L. ruminis isolates identified strains with optimal survival characteristics suitable for future investigation as candidate probiotics. Under laboratory conditions, six human isolates of L. ruminis tested were aflagellate and non-motile, whereas all 10 strains of bovine, equine and porcine origin were motile. Interestingly the equine and porcine strains were hyper-flagellated compared to bovine isolates, and this hyper-flagellate phenotype correlated with the ability to swarm on solid medium containing up to 1.8% agar. Analysis by RNA sequencing and qRT-PCR identified genes for the biosynthesis of flagella, genes for carbohydrate metabolism and genes of unknown function that were differentially expressed in swarming cells of an equine isolate of L. ruminis. Conclusions We suggest that Lactobacillus ruminis isolates have potential to be used in the functional food industry. We have also identified a MLST scheme able to distinguish between strains of L. ruminis of different origin. Genes for non-digestible oligosaccharide metabolism were identified with a putative role in swarming behaviour.
    • Composition of the early intestinal microbiota: Knowledge, knowledge gaps and the use of high-throughput sequencing to address these gaps

      Fouhy, Fiona; Ross, R Paul; Fitzgerald, Gerald F; Stanton, Catherine; Cotter, Paul D.; Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; Science Foundation Ireland; 11/PI/1137 (Landes Bioscience, 01/05/2012)
      The colonization, development and maturation of the newborn gastrointestinal tract that begins immediately at birth and continues for two years, is modulated by numerous factors including mode of delivery, feeding regime, maternal diet/weight, probiotic and prebiotic use and antibiotic exposure pre-, peri- and post-natally. While in the past, culture-based approaches were used to assess the impact of these factors on the gut microbiota, these have now largely been replaced by culture-independent DNA-based approaches and most recently, high-throughput sequencing-based forms thereof. The aim of this review is to summarize recent research into the modulatory factors that impact on the acquisition and development of the infant gut microbiota, to outline the knowledge recently gained through the use of culture-independent techniques and, in particular, highlight advances in high-throughput sequencing and how these technologies have, and will continue to, fill gaps in our knowledge with respect to the human intestinal microbiota.
    • Adding value to milk by increasing its protein and CLA contents

      Murphy, J.J.; Stanton, Catherine; O'Donovan, Michael; Kavanagh, S.; Maher, J.; Patton, Joe; Mohammed, Riaz (Teagasc, 01/08/2008)
      The mid-summer milk protein study was undertaken on 34 commercial dairy farms in 2005 to evaluate the influence of dietary and management variables on milk protein content in mid-season. Data on grass composition, genetic merit of the herds and milk protein content were collected and analysed by multiple regression. Both calving date and genetic merit for milk protein content were significantly associated with milk protein content and were used as adjustment factors when evaluating the association between measures of grass quality and milk protein content. Milk protein content was associated with grass OMD (P = 0.04) and NDF content (P = 0.02) but not with CP content (P = 0.80). It is concluded that herds calving earlier, with a greater genetic merit for milk protein content and consuming better quality pasture would have greater milk protein contents in mid-season.
    • N-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs) Reverse the Impact of Early-Life Stress on the Gut Microbiota

      Pusceddu, Matteo M; El Aidy, Sahar; Crispie, Fiona; O'Sullivan, Orla; Cotter, Paul; Stanton, Catherine; Kelly, Philip M.; Cryan, John F.; Dinan, Timothy G.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; APC Microbiome Institute; Science Foundation Ireland; 10/RD/TMFRC/709,; 07/CE/B1368; 12/IA/1537 (PLOS, 01/10/2015)
      Background Early life stress is a risk factor for many psychiatric disorders ranging from depression to anxiety. Stress, especially during early life, can induce dysbiosis in the gut microbiota, the key modulators of the bidirectional signalling pathways in the gut-brain axis that underline several neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders. Despite their critical role in the development and function of the central nervous system, the effect of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) on the regulation of gut-microbiota in early-life stress has not been explored. Methods and Results Here, we show that long-term supplementation of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)/docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (80% EPA, 20% DHA) n-3 PUFAs mixture could restore the disturbed gut-microbiota composition of maternally separated (MS) female rats. Sprague-Dawley female rats were subjected to an early-life stress, maternal separation procedure from postnatal days 2 to 12. Non-separated (NS) and MS rats were administered saline, EPA/DHA 0.4 g/kg/day or EPA/DHA 1 g/kg/day, respectively. Analysis of the gut microbiota in adult rats revealed that EPA/DHA changes composition in the MS, and to a lesser extent the NS rats, and was associated with attenuation of the corticosterone response to acute stress. Conclusions In conclusion, EPA/DHA intervention alters the gut microbiota composition of both neurodevelopmentally normal and early-life stressed animals. This study offers insights into the interaction between n-3 PUFAs and gut microbes, which may play an important role in advancing our understanding of disorders of mood and cognitive functioning, such as anxiety and depression.
    • Mesophilic sporeformers identified in whey powder by using shotgun metagenomic sequencing

      McHugh, Aoife J.; Feehily, Conor; Tobin, John; Fenelon, Mark A.; Hill, Colin; Cotter, Paul D.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; Science Foundation Ireland; 14/F/883; 11/P1/1137 (American Society for Microbiology, 01/10/2018)
      Spoilage and pathogenic spore-forming bacteria are a major cause of concern for producers of dairy products. Traditional agar-based detection methods employed by the dairy industry have limitations with respect to their sensitivity and specificity. The aim of this study was to identify low-abundance sporeformers in samples of a powdered dairy product, whey powder, produced monthly over 1 year, using novel culture-independent shotgun metagenomics-based approaches. Although mesophilic sporeformers were the main target of this study, in one instance thermophilic sporeformers were also targeted using this culture-independent approach. For comparative purposes, mesophilic and thermophilic sporeformers were also tested for within the same sample using culture-based approaches. Ultimately, the approaches taken highlighted differences in the taxa identified due to treatment and isolation methods. Despite this, low levels of transient, mesophilic, and in some cases potentially pathogenic sporeformers were consistently detected in powder samples. Although the specific sporeformers changed from one month to the next, it was apparent that 3 groups of mesophilic sporeformers, namely, Bacillus cereus, Bacillus licheniformis/Bacillus paralicheniformis, and a third, more heterogeneous group containing Brevibacillus brevis, dominated across the 12 samples. Total thermophilic sporeformer taxonomy was considerably different from mesophilic taxonomy, as well as from the culturable thermophilic taxonomy, in the one sample analyzed by all four approaches. Ultimately, through the application of shotgun metagenomic sequencing to dairy powders, the potential for this technology to facilitate the detection of undesirable bacteria present in these food ingredients is highlighted.
    • Generation of Bioactive Hydrolysates and Peptides from Bovine Hemoglobin with In Vitro Renin, Angiotensin-I-Converting Enzyme and Dipeptidyl Peptidase-IV Inhibitory Activities

      Lafarga, Tomas; Rai, Dilip K.; O'Connor, Paula; Hayes, Maria; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 11/F/043 (Wiley, 02/03/2016)
      Bovine hemoglobin was selected for use in the generation of bioactive hydrolysates with potential for use as functional food ingredients for prevention of disorders such as hypertension, obesity and diabetes. Bovine hemoglobin was isolated and hydrolyzed with papain, which was selected using in silico analysis. The generated hydrolysate was enriched by ultrafiltration and further purified by high performance liquid chromatography. A number of peptides were identified using de novo peptide sequencing and these peptides were chemically synthesized to confirm their bioactivity in vitro. Three multifunctional peptides with both, ACE-I and renin-inhibitory properties and one peptide with ACE-I-inhibiting properties were identified. These included the di-peptide HR with ACE-I and renin IC50 values of 0.19 and 7.09 mM, respectively. The generated papain hydrolysate of bovine hemoglobin not only inhibited the enzymes ACE-I and renin but also the enzyme DPP-IV, which has been linked to type-2 diabetes.
    • Relatedness between the two-component lantibiotics lacticin 3147 and staphylococcin C55 based on structure, genetics and biological activity

      O'Connor, Eileen B; Cotter, Paul D.; O'Connor, Paula M.; O'Sullivan, Orla; Tagg, John R; Ross, R Paul; Hill, Colin (Biomed Central, 02/04/2007)
      Background: Two component lantibiotics, such as the plasmid-encoded lacticin 3147 produced by Lactococcus lactis DPC3147 and staphylococcin C55 produced by Staphylococcus aureus C55, represent an emerging subgroup of bacteriocins. These two bacteriocins are particularly closely related, exhibiting 86% (LtnA1 and C55α) and 55% (LtnA2 and C55β) identity in their component peptides. The aim of this study was to investigate, for the first time for any two component bacteriocins, the significance of the relatedness between these two systems. Results: So close is this relatedness that the hybrid peptide pairs LtnA1:C55β and C55α:LtnA2 were found to have activities in the single nanomolar range, comparing well with the native pairings. To determine whether this flexibility extended to the associated post-translational modification/processing machinery, the staphylococcin C55 structural genes were directly substituted for their lacticin 3147 counterparts in the ltn operon on the large conjugative lactococcal plasmid pMRC01. It was established that the lacticin LtnA1 post-translational and processing machinery could produce functionally active C55α, but not C55β. In order to investigate in closer detail the significance of the differences between LtnA1 and C55α, three residues in LtnA1 were replaced with the equivalent residues in C55α. Surprisingly, one such mutant LtnA1-Leu21Ala was not produced. This may be significant given the positioning of this residue in a putative lipid II binding loop. Conclusion: It is apparent, despite sharing striking similarities in terms of structure and activity, that these two complex bacteriocins display some highly dedicated features particular to either system.
    • The efficacy of thuricin CD, tigecycline, vancomycin, teicoplanin, rifampicin and nitazoxanide, independently and in paired combinations against Clostridium difficile biofilms and planktonic cells

      Mathur, Harsh; Rea, Mary C.; Cotter, Paul D; Hill, Colin; Ross, R Paul; Science Foundation Ireland; SFI/12/RC/2273 (Biomed Central, 02/06/2016)
      Background Thuricin CD is a two-component antimicrobial, belonging to the recently designated sactibiotic subclass of bacteriocins. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of thuricin CD, as well as the antibiotics, tigecycline, vancomycin, teicoplanin, rifampicin and nitazoxanide when used independently and when combined at low concentrations on the viability of Clostridium difficile 20291 R027, TL178 R002, Liv022 R106, DPC6350 and VPI10463 biofilms and planktonic cells. Results On the basis of XTT (2,3-bis[2-methyloxy-4-nitro-5-sulphophenyl]-2H-tetrazolium-5-carboxanilide)-menadione biofilm viability assays, we found that thuricin CD was effective against biofilms of R027, Liv022 R106 and DPC6350 when used independently while nitazoxanide and rifampicin were also potent against biofilms of R027 and DPC6350, when applied on their own. Tigecycline was found to be effective against R027 and DPC6350 biofilms, whereas teicoplanin and vancomycin when used independently were only effective against DPC6350 biofilms. The efficacies of the antibiotics rifampicin, tigecycline, vancomycin and teicoplanin against C. difficile 20291 R027 biofilms were significantly potentiated when combined with thuricin CD, indicating effective antimicrobial combinations with this sactibiotic against R027 biofilms. However, the potency of nitazoxanide against R027 biofilms was significantly diminished when combined with thuricin CD, indicating an ineffective combination with this sactibiotic against R027 biofilms. Paired combinations of thuricin CD along with these five antibiotics were effective at diminishing the viability of DPC6350 biofilms. However, such combinations were largely ineffective against biofilms of TL178 R002, Liv022 R106 and VPI10463. Conclusions To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to highlight the activity of a sactibiotic bacteriocin against biofilms and the first to reveal the potency of the antibiotics tigecycline, teicoplanin and nitazoxanide against C. difficile biofilms. On the basis of this study, it is apparent that different strains of C. difficile possess varying abilities to form biofilms and that the sensitivities of these biofilms to different antimicrobials and antimicrobial combinations are strain-dependent. Since the formation of relatively strong biofilms by certain C. difficile strains may contribute to increased cases of antibiotic resistance and recurrence and relapse of C. difficile infection, the findings presented in this study could provide alternative strategies to target this pathogen.
    • Reincarnation of Bacteriocins From the Lactobacillus Pangenomic Graveyard

      Collins, Fergus W. J.; Mesa-Pereira, Beatriz; O’Connor, Paula M.; Rea, Mary C.; Hill, Colin; Ross, R Paul; Science Foundation Ireland; SFI/12/RC/227 (Frontiers, 02/07/2018)
      Bacteria commonly produce narrow spectrum bacteriocins as a means of inhibiting closely related species competing for similar resources in an environment. The increasing availability of genomic data means that it is becoming easier to identify bacteriocins encoded within genomes. Often, however, the presence of bacteriocin genes in a strain does not always translate into biological antimicrobial activity. For example, when analysing the Lactobacillus pangenome we identified strains encoding ten pediocin-like bacteriocin structural genes which failed to display inhibitory activity. Nine of these bacteriocins were novel whilst one was identified as the previously characterized bacteriocin “penocin A.” The composition of these bacteriocin operons varied between strains, often with key components missing which are required for bacteriocin production, such as dedicated bacteriocin transporters and accessory proteins. In an effort to functionally express these bacteriocins, the structural genes for the ten pediocin homologs were cloned alongside the dedicated pediocin PA-1 transporter in both Escherichia coli and Lactobacillus paracasei heterologous hosts. Each bacteriocin was cloned with its native leader sequence and as a fusion protein with the pediocin PA-1 leader sequence. Several of these bacteriocins displayed a broader spectrum of inhibition than the original pediocin PA-1. We show how potentially valuable bacteriocins can easily be “reincarnated” from in silico data and produced in vitro despite often lacking the necessary accompanying machinery. Moreover, the study demonstrates how genomic datasets such as the Lactobacilus pangenome harbor a potential “arsenal” of antimicrobial activity with the possibility of being activated when expressed in more genetically amenable hosts.
    • Tn6188 - A Novel Transposon in Listeria monocytogenes Responsible for Tolerance to Benzalkonium Chloride

      Muller, Anneliese; Rychli, Kathrin; Muhterem-Uyar, Meryem; Zaiser, Andreas; Stessl, Beatrix; Guinane, Caitriona M.; Cotter, Paul D.; Wagner, Martin; Schmitz-Esser, Stephan (PLOS, 02/10/2013)
      Controlling the food-borne pathogen Listeria (L.) monocytogenes is of great importance from a food safety perspective, and thus for human health. The consequences of failures in this regard have been exemplified by recent large listeriosis outbreaks in the USA and Europe. It is thus particularly notable that tolerance to quaternary ammonium compounds such as benzalkonium chloride (BC) has been observed in many L. monocytogenes strains. However, the molecular determinants and mechanisms of BC tolerance of L. monocytogenes are still largely unknown. Here we describe Tn6188, a novel transposon in L. monocytogenes conferring tolerance to BC. Tn6188 is related to Tn554 from Staphylococcus (S.) aureus and other Tn554-like transposons such as Tn558, Tn559 and Tn5406 found in various Firmicutes. Tn6188 comprises 5117 bp, is integrated chromosomally within the radC gene and consists of three transposase genes (tnpABC) as well as genes encoding a putative transcriptional regulator and QacH, a small multidrug resistance protein family (SMR) transporter putatively associated with export of BC that shows high amino acid identity to Smr/QacC from S. aureus and to EmrE from Escherichia coli. We screened 91 L. monocytogenes strains for the presence of Tn6188 by PCR and found Tn6188 in 10 of the analyzed strains. These isolates were from food and food processing environments and predominantly from serovar 1/2a. L. monocytogenes strains harboring Tn6188 had significantly higher BC minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) (28.5 ± 4.7 mg/l) than strains without Tn6188 (14 ± 3.2 mg/l). Using quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR we could show a significant increase in qacH expression in the presence of BC. QacH deletion mutants were generated in two L. monocytogenes strains and growth analysis revealed that ΔqacH strains had lower BC MICs than wildtype strains. In conclusion, our results provide evidence that Tn6188 is responsible for BC tolerance in various L. monocytogenes strains.
    • Antimicrobial antagonists against food pathogens; a bacteriocin perspective

      O'Connor, Paula M.; Ross, R Paul; Hill, Colin; Cotter, Paul D.; Science Foundation Ireland; 12/RC/2273 (Elsevier, 03/02/2015)
      Efforts are continuing to find novel bacteriocins with enhanced specificity and potency. Traditional plating techniques are still being used for bacteriocin screening studies, however, the availability of ever more bacterial genome sequences and the use of in silico gene mining tools have revealed novel bacteriocin gene clusters that would otherwise have been overlooked. Furthermore, synthetic biology and bioengineering-based approaches are allowing scientists to harness existing and novel bacteriocin gene clusters through expression in different hosts and by enhancing functionalities. The same principles apply to bacteriocin producing probiotic cultures and their application to control pathogens in the gut. We can expect that the recent developments on bacteriocins from Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) described here will contribute greatly to increased commercialisation of bacteriocins in food systems.
    • Proteomics as the final step in the functional metagenomics study of antimicrobial resistance

      Fouhy, Fiona; Stanton, Catherine; Cotter, Paul D; Hill, Colin; Walsh, Fiona; Science Foundation Ireland; European Union; SFI/12/RC/2273; 603038 (Frontiers Media S. A., 03/03/2015)
      The majority of clinically applied antimicrobial agents are derived from natural products generated by soil microorganisms and therefore resistance is likely to be ubiquitous in such environments. This is supported by the fact that numerous clinically important resistance mechanisms are encoded within the genomes of such bacteria. Advances in genomic sequencing have enabled the in silico identification of putative resistance genes present in these microorganisms. However, it is not sufficient to rely on the identification of putative resistance genes, we must also determine if the resultant proteins confer a resistant phenotype. This will require an analysis pipeline that extends from the extraction of environmental DNA, to the identification and analysis of potential resistance genes and their resultant proteins and phenotypes. This review focuses on the application of functional metagenomics and proteomics to study antimicrobial resistance in diverse environments.
    • The Effect of Feeding Bt MON810 Maize to Pigs for 110 Days on Intestinal Microbiota

      Buzoianu, Stefan G.; Walsh, Maria C.; Rea, Mary C.; O'Sullivan, Orla; Crispie, Fiona; Cotter, Paul D.; Ross, R Paul; Gardiner, Gillian E.; Lawlor, Peadar G; European Union; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; 211820 (PLOS, 04/05/2012)
      Objective To assess the effects of feeding Bt MON810 maize to pigs for 110 days on the intestinal microbiota. Methodology/Principal Findings Forty male pigs (~40 days old) were blocked by weight and litter ancestry and assigned to one of four treatments; 1) Isogenic maize-based diet for 110 days (Isogenic); 2) Bt maize-based diet (MON810) for 110 days (Bt); 3) Isogenic maize-based diet for 30 days followed by a Bt maize-based diet for 80 days (Isogenic/Bt); 4) Bt maize-based diet for 30 days followed by an isogenic maize-based diet for 80 days (Bt/Isogenic). Enterobacteriaceae, Lactobacillus and total anaerobes were enumerated in the feces using culture-based methods on days 0, 30, 60 and 100 of the study and in ileal and cecal digesta on day 110. No differences were found between treatments for any of these counts at any time point. The relative abundance of cecal bacteria was also determined using high-throughput 16 S rRNA gene sequencing. No differences were observed in any bacterial taxa between treatments, with the exception of the genus Holdemania which was more abundant in the cecum of pigs fed the isogenic/Bt treatment compared to pigs fed the Bt treatment (0.012 vs 0.003%; P≤0.05). Conclusions/Significance Feeding pigs a Bt maize-based diet for 110 days did not affect counts of any of the culturable bacteria enumerated in the feces, ileum or cecum. Neither did it influence the composition of the cecal microbiota, with the exception of a minor increase in the genus Holdemania. As the role of Holdemania in the intestine is still under investigation and no health abnormalities were observed, this change is not likely to be of clinical significance. These results indicate that feeding Bt maize to pigs in the context of its influence on the porcine intestinal microbiota is safe.
    • The Microbiota and Health Promoting Characteristics of the Fermented Beverage Kefir

      Bourrie, Benjamin C. T.; Willing, Benjamin P.; Cotter, Paul D.; Science Foundation Ireland; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; Canada Research Chairs Program; SFI/11/PI/1137; SFI/12/RC/2273; 2014025 (Frontiers Media S. A., 04/05/2016)
      Kefir is a complex fermented dairy product created through the symbiotic fermentation of milk by lactic acid bacteria and yeasts contained within an exopolysaccharide and protein complex called a kefir grain. As with other fermented dairy products, kefir has been associated with a range of health benefits such as cholesterol metabolism and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibition, antimicrobial activity, tumor suppression, increased speed of wound healing, and modulation of the immune system including the alleviation of allergy and asthma. These reports have led to increased interest in kefir as a focus of research and as a potential probiotic-containing product. Here, we review those studies with a particular emphasis on the microbial composition and the health benefits of the product, as well as discussing the further development of kefir as an important probiotic product.
    • High-Throughput Sequencing Reveals the Incomplete, Short-Term Recovery of Infant Gut Microbiota following Parenteral Antibiotic Treatment with Ampicillin and Gentamicin

      Fouhy, Fiona; Guinane, Caitriona M.; Hussey, Seamus; Wall, Rebecca; Ryan, C. Anthony; Dempsey, Eugene M.; Murphy, Brendan; Ross, R Paul; Fitzgerald, Gerald F; Stanton, Catherine; Cotter, Paul D.; Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; Science Foundation Ireland; SFI/11/PI/1137 (American Society for Microbiology, 04/09/2012)
      The infant gut microbiota undergoes dramatic changes during the first 2 years of life. The acquisition and development of this population can be influenced by numerous factors, and antibiotic treatment has been suggested as one of the most significant. Despite this, however, there have been relatively few studies which have investigated the short-term recovery of the infant gut microbiota following antibiotic treatment. The aim of this study was to use high-throughput sequencing (employing both 16S rRNA and rpoB-specific primers) and quantitative PCR to compare the gut microbiota of nine infants who underwent parenteral antibiotic treatment with ampicillin and gentamicin (within 48 h of birth), 4 and 8 weeks after the conclusion of treatment, relative to that of nine matched healthy controls. The investigation revealed that the gut microbiota of the antibiotic-treated infants had significantly higher proportions of Proteobacteria (P = 0.0049) and significantly lower proportions of Actinobacteria (P = 0.00001) (and the associated genus Bifidobacterium [P = 0.0132]) as well as the genus Lactobacillus (P = 0.0182) than the untreated controls 4 weeks after the cessation of treatment. By week 8, the Proteobacteria levels remained significantly higher in the treated infants (P = 0.0049), but the Actinobacteria, Bifidobacterium, and Lactobacillus levels had recovered and were similar to those in the control samples. Despite this recovery of total Bifidobacterium numbers, rpoB-targeted pyrosequencing revealed that the number of different Bifidobacterium species present in the antibiotic-treated infants was reduced. It is thus apparent that the combined use of ampicillin and gentamicin in early life can have significant effects on the evolution of the infant gut microbiota, the long-term health implications of which remain unknown.
    • Impact of Environmental Factors on Bacteriocin Promoter Activity in Gut-Derived Lactobacillus salivarius

      Guinane, Caitriona M.; Piper, Clare; Draper, Lorraine A.; O'Connor, Paula M.; Hill, Colin; Ross, R Paul; Cotter, Paul D.; Science Foundation Ireland; SFI/11/PI/1137 (American Society for Microbiology, 04/09/2015)
      Bacteriocin production is regarded as a desirable probiotic trait that aids in colonization and persistence in the gastrointestinal tract (GIT). Strains of Lactobacillus salivarius, a species associated with the GIT, are regarded as promising probiotic candidates and have a number of associated bacteriocins documented to date. These include multiple class IIb bacteriocins (salivaricin T, salivaricin P, and ABP-118) and the class IId bacteriocin bactofencin A, which show activity against medically important pathogens. However, the production of a bacteriocin in laboratory media does not ensure production under stressful environmental conditions, such as those encountered within the GIT. To allow this issue to be addressed, the promoter regions located upstream of the structural genes encoding the L. salivarius bacteriocins mentioned above were fused to a number of reporter proteins (green fluorescent protein [GFP], red fluorescent protein [RFP], and luciferase [Lux]). Of these, only transcriptional fusions to GFP generated signals of sufficient strength to enable the study of promoter activity in L. salivarius. While analysis of the class IIb bacteriocin promoter regions indicated relatively weak GFP expression, assessment of the promoter of the antistaphylococcal bacteriocin bactofencin A revealed a strong promoter that is most active in the absence of the antimicrobial peptide and is positively induced in the presence of mild environmental stresses, including simulated gastric fluid. Taken together, these data provide information on factors that influence bacteriocin production, which will assist in the development of strategies to optimize in vivo and in vitro production of these antimicrobials.
    • Prawn Shell Chitosan Has Anti-Obesogenic Properties, Influencing Both Nutrient Digestibility and Microbial Populations in a Pig Model

      Egan, Aine M.; Sweeney, Torres; Hayes, Maria; O'Doherty, JohnV.; Marine Institute; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; MFFRI/07/01 (PLOS, 04/12/2015)
      The potential of natural products to prevent obesity have been investigated, with evidence to suggest that chitosan has anti-obesity effects. The current experiment investigated the anti-obesity potential of prawn shell derived chitosan on a range of variables relevant to obesity in a pig model. The two dietary treatment groups included in this 63 day study were: T1) basal diet and T2) basal diet plus 1000 ppm chitosan (n = 20 gilts per group (70 ± 0.90 kg). The parameter categories which were assessed included: performance, nutrient digestibility, serum leptin concentrations, nutrient transporter and digestive enzyme gene expression and gut microbial populations. Pigs offered chitosan had reduced feed intake and final body weight (P< 0.001), lower ileal digestibility of dry matter (DM), gross energy (GE) (P< 0.05) and reduced coefficient of apparent total tract digestibility (CATTD) of gross energy and nitrogen (P<0.05) when compared to the basal group. Fatty acid binding protein 2 (FABP2) gene expression was down-regulated in pigs offered chitosan (P = 0.05) relative to the basal diet. Serum leptin concentrations increased (P< 0.05) in animals offered the chitosan diet compared to pigs offered the basal diet. Fatness traits, back-fat depth (mm), fat content (kg), were significantly reduced while lean meat (%) was increased (P<0.05) in chitosan supplemented pigs. Pigs offered chitosan had decreased numbers of Firmicutes in the colon (P <0.05), and Lactobacillus spp. in both the caecum (P <0.05) and colon (P <0.001). Bifidobacteria populations were increased in the caecum of animals offered the chitosan diet (P <0.05). In conclusion, these findings suggest that prawn shell chitosan has potent anti-obesity/body weight control effects which are mediated through multiple biological systems in vivo.
    • A degenerate PCR-based strategy as a means of identifying homologues of aminoglycoside and ß-lactam resistance genes in the gut microbiota

      Fouhy, Fiona; Ross, R Paul; Fitzgerald, Gerald F; Stanton, Catherine; Cotter, Paul D.; Irish Research Council; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; Science Foundation Ireland; 11/PI/1137 (Biomed Central, 05/02/2014)
      Background: The potential for the human gut microbiota to serve as a reservoir for antibiotic resistance genes has been the subject of recent discussion. However, this has yet to be investigated using a rapid PCR-based approach. In light of this, here we aim to determine if degenerate PCR primers can detect aminoglycoside and β-lactam resistance genes in the gut microbiota of healthy adults, without the need for an initial culture-based screen for resistant isolates. In doing so, we would determine if the gut microbiota of healthy adults, lacking recent antibiotic exposure, is a reservoir for resistance genes. Results: The strategy employed resulted in the identification of numerous aminoglycoside (acetylation, adenylation and phosphorylation) and β-lactam (including bla OXA, bla TEM, bla SHV and bla CTX-M) resistance gene homologues. On the basis of homology, it would appear that these genes originated from different bacterial taxa, with members of the Enterobacteriaceae being a particularly rich source. The results demonstrate that, even in the absence of recent antibiotic exposure, the human gut microbiota is a considerable reservoir for antibiotic resistance genes. Conclusions: This study has demonstrated that the gut can be a significant source of aminoglycoside and β-lactam resistance genes, even in the absence of recent antibiotic exposure. The results also demonstrate that PCR-based approaches can be successfully applied to detect antibiotic resistance genes in the human gut microbiota, without the need to isolate resistant strains. This approach could also be used to rapidly screen other complex environments for target genes.