Taming the beast: Interplay between gut small molecules and enteric pathogens

Aman Kumar, Melissa Ellermann, Vanessa Sperandio

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The overuse of antibiotics has led to the evolution of drug-resistant bacteria that are becoming increasingly dangerous to human health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, antibiotic-resistant bacteria cause at least 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths in the United States annually. Traditionally, antibiotics are bactericidal or bacteriostatic agents that place selective pressure on bacteria, leading to the expansion of antibiotic-resistant strains. In addition, antibiotics that are effective against some pathogens can also exacerbate their pathogenesis and may lead to severe progression of the disease. Therefore, alternative strategies are needed to treat antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. One novel approach is to target bacterial virulence to prevent or limit pathogen colonization, while also minimizing tissue damage and disease comorbidities in the host. This review focuses on the interactions between enteric pathogens and naturally occurring small molecules in the human gut as potential therapeutic targets for antivirulence strategies. Individual small molecules in the intestines modulate enteric pathogen virulence and subsequent intestinal fitness and colonization. Targeted interruption of pathogen sensing of these small molecules could therefore attenuate their virulence. This review highlights the paths of discovery for new classes of antimicrobials that could potentially mitigate the urgent problem of antibiotic resistance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00131-19
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019


  • Clostridium difficile
  • Enteropathogens
  • Escherichia coli
  • Microbiota
  • Salmonella

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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