Background: The prevalence of human infections with the zoonotic pathogen Campylobacter jejuni is rising worldwide. Therefore, the identification of compounds with potent anti-pathogenic and anti-inflammatory properties for future therapeutic and/or preventive application to combat campylobacteriosis is of importance for global health. Results of recent studies suggested carvacrol (4-isopropyl-2-methylphenol) as potential candidate molecule for the treatment of campylobacteriosis in humans and for the prevention of Campylobacter colonization in farm animals.
Results: To address this in a clinical murine infection model of acute campylobacteriosis, secondary abiotic IL-10-/- mice were subjected to synthetic carvacrol via the drinking water starting 4 days before peroral C. jejuni challenge. Whereas at day 6 post-infection placebo treated mice suffered from acute enterocolitis, mice from the carvacrol cohort not only harbored two log orders of magnitude lower pathogen loads in their intestines, but also displayed significantly reduced disease symptoms. Alleviated campylobacteriosis following carvacrol application was accompanied by less distinct intestinal apoptosis and pro-inflammatory immune responses as well as by higher numbers of proliferating colonic epithelial cells. Remarkably, the inflammation-ameliorating effects of carvacrol treatment were not restricted to the intestinal tract, but could also be observed in extra-intestinal organs such as liver, kidneys and lungs and, strikingly, systemically as indicated by lower IFN-γ, TNF, MCP-1 and IL-6 serum concentrations in carvacrol versus placebo treated mice. Furthermore, carvacrol treatment was associated with less frequent translocation of viable C. jejuni originating from the intestines to extra-intestinal compartments.
Conclusion: The lowered C. jejuni loads and alleviated symptoms observed in the here applied clinical murine model for human campylobacteriosis highlight the application of carvacrol as a promising novel option for both, the treatment of campylobacteriosis and hence, for prevention of post-infectious sequelae in humans, and for the reduction of C. jejuni colonization in the intestines of vertebrate lifestock animals.