Susceptibility to enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) infection varies among humans. The intestinal microbiota seems to play an essential role in host defense against EHEC; thus, we hypothesized that indigenous bacteria, such as Clostridium ramosum and Clostridium perfringens, could influence the susceptibility to EHEC infection. To evaluate the effect of indigenous bacteria on EHEC infection, germ-free mice were precolonized with each indigenous bacterium, and then infected with EHEC O157:H7. Precolonization with C. ramosum or C. perfringens completely prevented death from EHEC infection througout a test period. Precolonization with C. ramosum also reduced the level of secreted Shiga toxin (Stx) 2 and prevented histopathological changes in the kidneys in a similar way to precolonization with Bifidobacterium longum, which is used as a model for preventing EHEC infection. In contrast, the mice precolonized with C. perfringens showed mild renal injuries. When evaluated using an in vitro co-culturing system, again C. ramosum inhibited the growth and Stx production of EHEC more potently than C. perfringens. These results indicate that C. ramosum and C. perfringens suppressed EHEC infection; however, the extent of their preventive effects differed. Therefore, the susceptibility to EHEC infection and its severity can depend on the functional bacteria present in the intestinal microbiota of individuals.
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