A new treatment for Clostridium difficile has been developed by international healthcare experts and the findings of researchers have been published in the journal PLOS Pathogens.
Scientists used mice to discover six bacteria that were found to be able to destroy a contagious form of C. difficile, known as O27.
This strain of the disease has been implicated in many hospital deaths and has a prolonged and persistent contagious period, making it hard for courses of antibiotics to deal with the disease.
Infection with C. difficile led to more than 2,000 deaths in the UK alone during 201, with symptoms including diarrhoea, bloating and abdominal pain.
Many people carry the bacteria naturally within their gut, where other pathogens prevent it from spreading and suppress the disease.
Clindamycin and other broad-spectrum antibiotics can kill natural bacteria within the human body, allowing the intestines to become overloaded with C. difficile.
Researchers analysing O27 – which has caused epidemics in North America, Europe and Australia – wanted to isolate the pathogens that restore balance to the human body's gut by culturing bacteria from the guts of mice.
They tested a range of combinations before isolating six bacteria that appeared to be the best at limiting the growth of the infection and three of these had never been described before.
"The mixture of six bacterial species effectively and reproducibly suppressed the C. difficile supershedder state in mice, restoring the healthy bacterial diversity of the gut," senior author from the University of Aberdeen Professor Harry Flint said.
As a result, the findings demonstrate the potential of using naturally-occurring microbes to deal with infection and transmission of C. difficile, as well as a range of other conditions related to imbalances in gut organisms.
"This model encapsulates some of the features of faecal therapy and acts as a basis to develop standardized treatment mixture," senior author from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute Professor Gordon Dougan said.