Pretreatment of epithelial cells with rifaximin alters bacterial attachment and internalization profiles.
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Rifaximin is a poorly absorbed semisynthetic antibiotic derivative of rifampin licensed for use in the treatment of traveler's diarrhea. Rifaximin reduces the symptoms of enteric infection, often without pathogen eradication and with limited effects on intestinal flora. Epithelial cells (HEp-2 [laryngeal], HCT-8 [ileocecal], A549 [lung], and HeLa [cervical]) were pretreated with rifaximin (or control antibiotics) prior to the addition of enteroaggregative Escherichia coli (EAEC). EAEC adherence was significantly reduced following rifaximin pretreatment compared to pretreatment with rifampin or doxycycline for three of the four cell lines tested. The rifaximin-mediated changes to epithelial cells were explored further by testing the attachment and internalization of either Bacillus anthracis or Shigella sonnei into A549 or HeLa cells, respectively. The attachment and internalization of B. anthracis were significantly reduced following rifaximin pretreatment. In contrast, neither the attachment nor the internalization of S. sonnei was affected by rifaximin pretreatment of HeLa cells, suggesting that rifaximin-mediated modulation of host cell physiology affected bacteria utilizing distinct attachment/internalization mechanisms differently. In addition, rifaximin pretreatment of HEp-2 cells led to reduced concentrations of inflammatory cytokines from uninfected cells. The study provides evidence that rifaximin-mediated changes in epithelial cell physiology are associated with changes in bacterial attachment/internalization and reduced inflammatory cytokine release.