No appendix necessary: Fecal transplants and antibiotics can resolve Clostridium difficile infection

Tejas Joshi, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Bret D. Elderd, Louisiana State University
Karen C. Abbott, Case Western Reserve University


© 2018 Elsevier Ltd The appendix has been hypothesized to protect the colon against Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) by providing a continuous source of commensal bacteria that crowd out the potentially unhealthy bacteria and/or by contributing to defensive immune dynamics. Here, a series of deterministic systems comprised of ordinary differential equations, which treat the system as an ecological community of microorganisms, model the dynamics of colon microbiome. The first model includes migration of commensal bacteria from the appendix to the gut, while the second model expands this to also include immune dynamics. Simulations and simple analytic techniques are used to explore dynamics under biologically relevant parameters values. Both models exhibited bistability with steady states of a healthy state and of fulminant CDI. However, we find that the appendix size was much too small for migration to affect the stability of the system. Both models affirm the use of fecal transplants in conjunction with antibiotic use for CDI treatment, while the second model also suggests that anti-inflammatory drugs may protect against CDI. Ultimately, in general neither the appendiceal migration rate of commensal microbiota nor the boost to antibody production could exert an appreciable impact on the stability of the system, thus failing to support the proposed protective role of the appendix against CDI.