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Probiotics prevent bacterial translocation and improve intestinal barrier function in rats following chronic psychological stress
  1. M Zareie1,
  2. K Johnson-Henry1,
  3. J Jury2,
  4. P-C Yang2,
  5. B-Y Ngan1,
  6. D M McKay2,
  7. J D Soderholm3,
  8. M H Perdue2,
  9. P M Sherman1
  1. 1Research Institute, Hospital for Sick Children, Departments of Paediatrics and Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
  2. 2Intestinal Diseases Research Program, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada
  3. 3Departments of Biomedicine and Surgery, University Hospital, Linkoping, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr P M Sherman
    Division of Gastroenterology and Nutrition, Room 8409, Hospital for Sick Children, 555 University Ave, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5G 1X8; philip.sherman{at}


Background and aim: Chronic psychological stress, including water avoidance stress (WAS), induces intestinal mucosal barrier dysfunction and impairs mucosal defences against luminal bacteria. The aim of this study was to determine the ability of a defined probiotic regimen to prevent WAS induced intestinal pathophysiology.

Methods: Male rats were subjected to either WAS or sham stress for one hour per day for 10 consecutive days. Additional animals received seven days of Lactobacillus helveticus and L rhamnosus in the drinking water prior to stress and remained on these probiotics for the duration of the study. Rats were then sacrificed, intestinal segments assessed in Ussing chambers, and mesenteric lymph nodes cultured to determine bacterial translocation.

Results: All animals remained healthy for the duration of the study. Chronic WAS induced excess ion secretion (elevated baseline short circuit current) and barrier dysfunction (increased conductance) in both the ileum and colon, associated with increased bacterial adhesion and penetration into surface epithelial cells. Approximately 70% of rats subjected to WAS had bacterial translocation to mesenteric lymph nodes while there was no bacterial translocation in controls. Probiotic pretreatment alone had no effect on intestinal barrier function. However, WAS induced increased ileal short circuit current was reduced with probiotics whereas there was no impact on altered conductance. Pretreatment of animals with probiotics also completely abrogated WAS induced bacterial adhesion and prevented translocation of bacteria to mesenteric lymph nodes.

Conclusion: These findings indicate that probiotics can prevent chronic stress induced intestinal abnormalities and, thereby, exert beneficial effects in the intestinal tract.

  • WAS, water avoidance stress
  • IBD, inflammatory bowel disease
  • MLN, mesenteric lymph nodes
  • TEM, transmission electron microscopy
  • HRP, horseradish peroxidase
  • probiotics
  • stress
  • bacterial translocation
  • epithelial barrier

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