Robert Britton Lab

Microbial Ecology of Infectious Disease.


Bacterial infections are multifactorial processes that often involve a complex interaction between the pathogen and resident microbial community. We have developed an in vitro microbioreactor array system to cultivate human microbial communities and explore how they react to invasion by pathogens. Using this system, we have developed a model of Clostridioides difficile infection of a human microbiome that has been disrupted by antibiotics. Through investigating how C. difficile ribotypes compete with one another to cause disease, we found that adaptation of C. difficile to the diet is contributing the evolution of pathogenesis. We expect that many other bacteria, both pathogenic and symbiotic, are also likely undergoing evolution to our ever changing diet. By understanding this complex interaction, we aim to identify novel therapeutic microbial communities that can be used to not only treat recurrent C. difficile infection but also used prophylactically to prevent primary infections.


Selected Publications


Collins J, Robinson C, Danhof H, Knetsch CW, van Leeuwen HC, Lawley TD, Auchtung JM, Britton RA. (2018). Dietary trehalose enhances virulence of epidemic Clostridium difficile. Nature. 2018 Jan 18;553(7688):291-294. PMID: 29310122.

Britton RA, Young VB (2014). Role of the Intestinal Microbiota in Resistance to Colonization by Clostridium difficile. Gastroenterology 2014 May;146(6):1547-53. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2014.01.059. Epub 2014 Feb 4.

The role of trehalose in the global spread of epidemic Clostridium difficile. (2018) Collins J, Danhof H, Britton RA. Gut Microbes. 2018 Aug 17:1-6. doi: 10.1080/19490976.2018.1491266. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 30118389.

Di Rienzi SC, Britton RA. Adaptation of the Gut Microbiota to Modern Dietary Sugars and Sweeteners. Adv Nutr. 2020;11(3):616-629. doi:10.1093/advances/nmz118.

Auchtung JM, Preisner EC, Collins J, Lerma AI, Britton RA. Identification of Simplified Microbial Communities That Inhibit Clostridioides difficile Infection through Dilution/Extinction. mSphere. 2020 Jul 29;5(4):e00387-20. doi: 10.1128/mSphere.00387-20. PMID: 32727857; PMCID: PMC7392540.

Midani FS, Collins J, Britton RA. AMiGA: Software for Automated Analysis of Microbial Growth Assays. mSystems. 2021 Aug 31;6(4):e0050821. doi: 10.1128/mSystems.00508-21. Epub 2021 Jul 13. PMID: 34254821; PMCID: PMC8409736.

Robinson CD, Auchtung JM, Collins J, Britton RA. (2014). Epidemic Clostridium difficile Strains Demonstrate Increased Competitive Fitness Compared to Nonepidemic Isolates. Infect Immun. 2014 Jul;82(7):2815-25. doi: 10.1128/IAI.01524-14. Epub 2014 Apr 14.

Auchtung JM, Robinson CD, Britton RA. (2015). Cultivation of stable, reproducible microbial communities from different fecal donors using minibioreactor arrays (MBRAs). Microbiome. 2015 Sep 30;3:42. doi: 10.1186/s40168-015-0106-5. PMID: 26419531.

Auchtung JM, Robinson CD, Farrell K, Britton RA. (2016). MiniBioReactor Arrays (MBRAs) as a Tool for Studying C. difficile Physiology in the Presence of a Complex Community. Methods Mol Biol. 2016;1476:235-58. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-6361-4_18.

Collins J, Auchtung JM, Schaefer L, Eaton KA, Britton RA. (2015). Humanized microbiota mice as a model of recurrent Clostridium difficile disease. Microbiome. 2015 Aug 20;3:35. doi: 10.1186/s40168-015-0097-2. PMID: 26289776.