Dogs with naturally occurring aerobic or anaerobic bacterial overgrowth have been examined before and after antibiotic therapy in order to assess reversibility of damage to the jejunal mucosa. Histological changes in peroral jejunal biopsies were relatively minor before and after treatment, but sucrose density gradient centrifugation revealed specific biochemical abnormalities that responded to antibiotic therapy. Aerobic overgrowth was initially associated with a marked loss of the main brush border component of alkaline phosphatase activity; this recovered following treatment, suggesting that aerobic bacteria may cause reversible damage to the hydrophobic region of the brush border membrane. In contrast, anaerobic overgrowth was initially associated with a marked reduction in brush border density, indicative of a considerable fall in the glycoprotein-to-lipid ratio of the membrane. Density increased from 1.17 to 1.21 g/ml after antibiotic therapy, consistent with recovery from this relatively severe damage to the brush border caused by anaerobic bacteria. Reductions in soluble and peroxisomal catalase activities which could compromise mucosal protection against free radicals in dogs with aerobic overgrowth, and a loss of particulate malate dehydrogenase activity indicative of mitochondrial disruption in dogs with anaerobic overgrowth, were also reversed after treatment. These findings indicate that aerobic and anaerobic bacterial overgrowth can result in contrasting but potentially reversible damage to the jejunal mucosa which would not be detected by conventional investigative procedures.
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