Deprivation of dietary fiber enhances susceptibility of mice to cryptosporidiosis
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Based on our initial observations showing that mice consuming a probiotic product develop more severe cryptosporidiosis, we investigated the impact of other dietary interventions on the intracellular proliferation of Cryptosporidium parvum and C. tyzzeri in the mouse. Mice were orally infected with oocysts and parasite multiplication measured by quantifying fecal oocyst output. High-throughput sequencing of 16S ribosomal RNA amplicons was used to correlate oocyst output with diet and with the composition of the intestinal microbiota. On average, mice fed a diet without fiber (cellulose, pectin and inulin) developed more severe infections. As expected, a diet without fibers also significantly altered the fecal microbiota. Consistent with these observations, mice fed a prebiotic product sold for human consumption excreted significantly fewer oocysts. The fecal microbiota of mice consuming no plant polysaccharides was characterized by a lower relative abundance of Bacteroidetes bacteria. Since bacterial metabolites play an important role in the physiology of intestinal enterocytes, we hypothesize based on these observations that the impact of diet on parasite proliferation is mediated primarily by the metabolic activity of the anaerobic microbiota, specifically by the effect of certain metabolites on the host. This model is consistent with the metabolic dependence of intracellular stages of the parasite on the host cell. These observations underscore the potential of dietary interventions to alleviate the impact of cryptosporidiosis, particularly in infants at risk of recurrent enteric infections.