Journal of Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics

, Volume 41, Issue 5, pp 493–507 | Cite as

Agent-based model of fecal microbial transplant effect on bile acid metabolism on suppressing Clostridium difficile infection: an example of agent-based modeling of intestinal bacterial infection

  • Xavier Peer
  • Gary AnEmail author
Original Paper


Agent-based modeling is a computational modeling method that represents system-level behavior as arising from multiple interactions between the multiple components that make up a system. Biological systems are thus readily described using agent-based models (ABMs), as multi-cellular organisms can be viewed as populations of interacting cells, and microbial systems manifest as colonies of individual microbes. Intersections between these two domains underlie an increasing number of pathophysiological processes, and the intestinal tract represents one of the most significant locations for these inter-domain interactions, so much so that it can be considered an internal ecology of varying robustness and function. Intestinal infections represent significant disturbances of this internal ecology, and one of the most clinically relevant intestinal infections is Clostridium difficile infection (CDI). CDI is precipitated by the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics, involves the depletion of commensal microbiota, and alterations in bile acid composition in the intestinal lumen. We present an example ABM of CDI (the C. difficile Infection ABM, or CDIABM) to examine fundamental dynamics of the pathogenesis of CDI and its response to treatment with anti-CDI antibiotics and a newer treatment therapy, fecal microbial transplant. The CDIABM focuses on one specific mechanism of potential CDI suppression: commensal modulation of bile acid composition. Even given its abstraction, the CDIABM reproduces essential dynamics of CDI and its response to therapy, and identifies a paradoxical zone of behavior that provides insight into the role of intestinal nutritional status and the efficacy of anti-CDI therapies. It is hoped that this use case example of the CDIABM can demonstrate the usefulness of both agent-based modeling and the application of abstract functional representation as the biomedical community seeks to address the challenges of increasingly complex diseases with the goal of personalized medicine.


Agent-based modeling Agent based model Mathematical modeling Mathematical model Computational biology Systems biology Clostridium difficile Nosocomial infection Bile acids Fecal microbial transplant Probiotics 



This work was supported, in part, by the National Institutes of Health, Grants NIGMS P50GM53789 and NIDDK P30DK42086.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SurgeryUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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