Diabetes drug may protect against dangerous

Metformin and C. difficile

image: Metformin and C. difficile
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Credit: Shaohua Wang, PhD, and Hariom Yadav, PhD

Rockville, Md. (April 27, 2021)–Researchers at the Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina have shown that a common diabetes drug inhibits the spread of Clostridioides difficile or C. diff – a potentially life-threatening infection often acquired during hospital stays. The team will present their work virtually at the American Physiological Society (APS) Annual Meeting on Experimental Biology 2021.

C. diff is the most common hospital infection in the US. It starts in the gut, often after a course of antibiotics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention categorize the bacterium C. diff as a public health threat that “requires”[s] urgent and aggressive action.” In 2017, nearly 223,900 people had to be hospitalized for its treatment and at least 12,800 died. Of those who recover, 1 in 6 people experience reinfection within eight weeks. Antibiotic-resistant strains are also growing. problem .

Metformin, approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, is the fourth most prescribed drug in the US. Previous studies have shown that metformin favorably alters the microbiomes of people with diabetes and the elderly. Inspired by these findings, Shaohua Wang, PhD, a researcher in the lab of Hariom Yadav, PhD, evaluated the effect of metformin on C. diff infection in three different models. She tested the treatment in cell cultures, mice and a lab-developed ex vivo model of the human microbiota.

In all three systems, metformin had the desired effect. It reduced the proliferation of C. diff in cell culture. In the ex vivo model, it reduced both the pathogen population and the growth of closely related non-pathogenic bacteria. Finally, in the mouse model, it reduced C. diff in the colon 100-fold and limited the spread of the pathogen to organs outside the gut.

Yadav, who now heads the University of South Florida Center for Microbiome Research, plans to advance with future studies that “determine the mechanisms by which metformin inhibits C. difficile infections and enhances clinical efficacy in patients with [C. difficile infection].”

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NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: To schedule an interview with a member of the research team, or to request the “Metformin Reduces Clostridium difficile Infection” summary, please contact the APS Communication Agency or call 301.634.7314. Find more research highlights in the APS Newsroom.

About Experimental Biology 2021

Experimental Biology is the annual meeting of five associations examining the latest research in physiology, anatomy, biochemistry and molecular biology, research pathology and pharmacology. With a mission to share the latest scientific concepts and research results shaping clinical progress, the meeting provides an unparalleled opportunity for global exchange among scientists representing dozens of scientific fields, from laboratory to translational to clinical research.

About the American Physiological Society

Physiology is a broad field of scientific research that focuses on how molecules, cells, tissues, and organs function in health and disease. The American Physiological Society connects a global, multidisciplinary community of more than 10,000 biomedical scientists and educators as part of its mission to advance scientific discovery, understand life and improve health. The Society promotes collaboration and promotes scientific discoveries through its 16 scientific journals and programs that support researchers and educators in their work.


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