Research ArticleInfectious Disease

Probiotic strains detect and suppress cholera in mice

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Science Translational Medicine  13 Jun 2018:
Vol. 10, Issue 445, eaao2586
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aao2586

Designer bugs as drugs

The endemic persistence and outbreaks of Vibrio cholerae indicate a need for new methods of control; in this issue, two groups investigated the potential of engineered bacteria to mediate cholera resistance in animal models. Mao et al. discovered that lactic acid production by the probiotic Lactococcus lactis rendered the infant mouse gut hostile to V. cholerae and engineered L. lactis to detect breakthrough infection. Hubbard et al. extensively modified a contemporary V. cholerae strain for a live oral vaccine, which resulted in an attenuated strain that could protect infant rabbits from V. cholerae challenge within 24 hours of vaccine administration, indicating the protective effects were not dependent on adaptive immunity. These papers showcase innovative approaches to tackling cholera.


Microbiota-modulating interventions are an emerging strategy to promote gastrointestinal homeostasis. Yet, their use in the detection, prevention, and treatment of acute infections remains underexplored. We report the basis of a probiotic-based strategy to promote colonization resistance and point-of-need diagnosis of cholera, an acute diarrheal disease caused by the pathogen Vibrio cholerae. Oral administration of Lactococcus lactis, a common dietary fermentative bacterium, reduced intestinal V. cholerae burden and improved survival in infected infant mice through the production of lactic acid. Furthermore, we engineered an L. lactis strain that specifically detects quorum-sensing signals of V. cholerae in the gut and triggers expression of an enzymatic reporter that is readily detected in fecal samples. We postulate that preventive dietary interventions with fermented foods containing natural and engineered L. lactis strains may hinder cholera progression and improve disease surveillance in populations at risk of cholera outbreaks.

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