News Release 

Diabetes drug could protect against dangerous infection

Metformin inhibited C. diff spread in three study models

Experimental Biology

Research News

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IMAGE: Metformin and C. difficile view more 

Credit: Shaohua Wang, PhD, and Hariom Yadav, PhD

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

C. diff is the most common hospital-acquired infection in the U.S. It starts in the intestines, often after a course of antibiotics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention categorizes the bacteria C. diff as a public health threat that "require[s] urgent and aggressive action." In 2017, nearly 223,900 people required hospitalization for its treatment, and at least 12,800 died from it. Of those who recover, 1 in 6 people experience reinfection within eight weeks. Antibiotic-resistant strains are also a growing concern.

Metformin, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, is the fourth most prescribed drug in the U.S. Earlier studies have shown that metformin beneficially alters the microbiomes of people with diabetes and of 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 an ex vivo model of the human microbiota developed by the lab.

In all three systems, metformin had the desired effect. It reduced C. diff proliferation in the cell culture. In the ex vivo model, it both reduced the population of the pathogen and increased the growth of closely related nonpathogenic bacteria. Lastly, in the mouse model, it reduced C. diff in the colon a hundredfold and limited the pathogen's spread to organs outside the intestine.

Yadav, who now heads the University of South Florida Center for Microbiome Research, plans to move forward with future studies that "determine the mechanisms by which metformin inhibits C. difficile infections and 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 abstract, "Metformin reduces Clostridium difficile infection," please contact the APS Communications Office 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 societies that explores the latest research in physiology, anatomy, biochemistry and molecular biology, investigative pathology and pharmacology. With a mission to share the newest scientific concepts and research findings shaping clinical advances, the meeting offers an unparalleled opportunity for global exchange among scientists who represent dozens of scientific areas, from laboratory to translational to clinical research.

About the American Physiological Society

Physiology is a broad area of scientific inquiry 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 drives collaboration and spotlights scientific discoveries through its 16 scholarly journals and programming that support researchers and educators in their work.

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