Journal of Hygiene

Research Article

Colonization resistance of the digestive tract in conventional and antibiotic-treated mice

D. Van der Waaija1, J. M. Berghuis-de Vriesa1 and J. E. C. Lekkerkerk-van der Weesa1

a1 Radiobiological Institute TNO, Lange Kleiweg, Rijswjk, The Netherlands

Abstract

The effect of oral administration of antibiotics on the intestinal flora of conventional mice and their resistance to colonization by orally introduced Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Pseudomonas aeruginosa was studied. Colonization resistance (CR) was expressed as the log of the oral bacterial dose followed by a persistent take in 50 % of the contaminated animals. The intestinal flora was virtually eliminated by the antibiotics and this elimination was accompanied by a precipitous fall of CR. CR gradually returned to normal values during the period of repopulation of the intestinal tract by the organisms surviving the treatment. Antibiotic treatment resulted in the disappearance of Enterobacteriaceae, enterococci, staphylococci and yeasts and, under appropriate housing conditions, the animals remained free of these organisms indefinitely. Germ-free mice contaminated with the intestinal flora of an antibiotic-treated animal and their offspring housed in a germ-free isolator showed high values of CR. Their intestinal flora consisted of anaerobic bacteria only. Apparently, these anaerobes are responsible for CR in these and in conventional mice.

(Received March 01 1971)

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