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Although the immune response of Caenorhabditis elegans to microbial infections is well established, very little is known about the effects of health-promoting probiotic bacteria on evolutionarily conserved C. elegans host responses. We found that the probiotic Gram-positive bacterium Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM is not harmful to C. elegans and that L. acidophilus NCFM is unable to colonize the C. elegans intestine. Conditioning with L. acidophilus NCFM significantly decreased the burden of a subsequent Enterococcus faecalis infection in the nematode intestine and prolonged the survival of nematodes exposed to pathogenic strains of E. faecalis and Staphylococcus aureus, including multidrug-resistant (MDR) isolates. Preexposure of nematodes to Bacillus subtilis did not provide any beneficial effects. Importantly, L. acidophilus NCFM activates key immune signaling pathways involved in C. elegans defenses against Gram-positive bacteria, including the p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway (via TIR-1 and PMK-1) and the β-catenin signaling pathway (via BAR-1). Interestingly, conditioning with L. acidophilus NCFM had a minimal effect on Gram-negative infection with Pseudomonas aeruginosa or Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium and had no or a negative effect on defense genes associated with Gram-negative pathogens or general stress. In conclusion, we describe a new system for the study of probiotic immune agents and our findings demonstrate that probiotic conditioning with L. acidophilus NCFM modulates specific C. elegans immunity traits.

Research Insights

SupplementHealth OutcomeEffect TypeEffect Size
Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFMEnhanced Immune Response to Gram-Positive BacteriaBeneficial
Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFMIncreased Survival During Pathogenic ExposureBeneficial
Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFMMinimal Effect on Gram-Negative InfectionsNeutral
Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFMReduced Adhesion of Enterococcus faecalisBeneficial
Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFMReduced Defense Gene Activity for Gram-Negative PathogensNeutral

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