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Xylitol-supplemented nutrition enhances bacterial killing and prolongs survival of rats in experimental pneumococcal sepsis

Marjo Renko1*, Päivi Valkonen1, Terhi Tapiainen1, Tero Kontiokari1, Pauli Mattila2, Matti Knuuttila2, Martti Svanberg3, Maija Leinonen4, Riitta Karttunen5 and Matti Uhari1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Paediatrics, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland

2 Oral and Maxillofacial Department, Oulu University Hospital, Oulu, Finland

3 Department of Dentistry, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland

4 National Public Health Institute, Oulu, Finland

5 Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Oulu, Oulu, and Central Hospital of Kanta-Häme, Hämeenlinna, Finland

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BMC Microbiology 2008, 8:45  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-8-45

Published: 11 March 2008



Xylitol has antiadhesive effects on Streptococcus pneumoniae and inhibits its growth, and has also been found to be effective in preventing acute otitis media and has been used in intensive care as a valuable source of energy.


We evaluated the oxidative burst of neutrophils in rats fed with and without xylitol. The mean increase in the percentage of activated neutrophils from the baseline was higher in the xylitol-exposed group than in the control group (58.1% vs 51.4%, P = 0.03 for the difference) and the mean induced increase in the median strength of the burst per neutrophil was similarly higher in the xylitol group (159.6 vs 140.3, P = 0.04). In two pneumococcal sepsis experiments rats were fed either a basal powder diet (control group) or the same diet supplemented with 10% or 20% xylitol and infected with an intraperitoneal inoculation of S. pneumoniae after two weeks. The mean survival time was 48 hours in the xylitol groups and 34 hours in the control groups (P < 0.001 in log rank test).


Xylitol has beneficial effects on both the oxidative killing of bacteria in neutrophilic leucocytes and on the survival of rats with experimental pneumococcal sepsis.