Mass General Brigham researchers find new ways to combat C. difficile

Mass General Brigham researchers at two hospitals found the metabolic strategies C. difficile uses to rapidly colonize the gut and identified ways to combat the disease, the Somerville, Mass.-based health system said in a March 9 news release.

The study, published in Nature Chemical Biology, used a new tool that allowed researchers to study real-time metabolism in living cells under anaerobic conditions. Researchers identified how C. difficile jump-starts its metabolism by fermenting amino acids and simple sugars in a pathway that allows the bacteria to grow.

"Investigating real-time metabolism in microorganisms that only grow in environments lacking oxygen had been considered impossible," co-corresponding author Lynn Bry, MD, PhD, director of the Massachusetts Host-Microbiome Center and associate medical director in pathology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, said in the release. "Here, we've shown it can be done to combat C. difficile infections — and with findings applicable to clinical medicine."

The study's findings found new ways for small molecule drugs to counter C. difficile colonization and infection, "providing a new approach to rapidly define microbial metabolism for other applications," researchers wrote.

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