Reducing food intake is a common host response to infection, yet it remains unclear whether fasting is detrimental or beneficial to an infected host. Despite the gastrointestinal tract being the primary site of nutrient uptake and a common route for infection, studies have yet to examine how fasting alters the host’s response to an enteric infection. To test this, mice were fasted before and during oral infection with the invasive bacterium
Salmonella entericaserovar Typhimurium. Fasting dramatically interrupted infection and subsequent gastroenteritis by suppressing Salmonella’sSPI-1 virulence program, preventing invasion of the gut epithelium. Virulence suppression depended on the gut microbiota, as Salmonella’s invasion of the epithelium proceeded in fasting gnotobiotic mice. Despite Salmonella’s restored virulence within the intestines of gnotobiotic mice, fasting downregulated pro-inflammatory signaling, greatly reducing intestinal pathology. Our study highlights how food intake controls the complex relationship between host, pathogen and gut microbiota during an enteric infection.