Clostridial Strain-Specific Characteristics Associated with Necrotizing Enterocolitis.

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2018 Mar 19;84(7). pii: e02428-17. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02428-17. Print 2018 Apr 1.


We aimed at identifying potential bacterial factors linking clostridia with necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). We compared the phenotypic traits, stress responses, cellular cytotoxicity, and inflammatory capabilities of the largest collection of Clostridium butyricum and Clostridium neonatale strains isolated from fecal samples of NEC preterm neonates (PN) and control PNs. When strain characteristics were used as explanatory variables, a statistical discriminant analysis allowed the separation of NEC and control strains into separate groups. Strains isolated from NEC PN were characterized by a higher viability at 30°C (P  0.03) and higher aerotolerance (P 0.01), suggesting that NEC strains may have a competitive and/or survival advantage in the environmental gastrointestinal tract conditions of NEC PN. Heat-treated NEC bacteria induced higher production of interleukin-8 in Caco-2 cells (P  0.03), suggesting proinflammatory activity. In vitro, bacteria, bacterial components, and fecal filtrates showed variable cytotoxic effects affecting the cellular network and/or cell viability, without specific association with NEC or control samples. Altogether, our data support the existence of a specific clostridial strain signature associated with NEC.


Clostridia are part of the commensal microbiota in preterm neonates (PN). However, microbiota analyses by culture and metagenomics have linked necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) and intestinal colonization with clostridial species. Nevertheless, little is known about the specific characteristics that may be shared by clostridia associated with NEC compared to commensal clostridia. Therefore, our goal was to identify specific bacterial factors linking clostridial strains with NEC. We report the existence of a specific bacterial signature associated with NEC and propose that activation of the innate immune response may be a unifying causative mechanism for the development of NEC independent of a specific pathogenic organism. The present study provides new insights into NEC pathophysiology that are needed for better diagnostics and strategies for implementing prevention of the disease.