Gut Bacteria Imbalance Linked to Higher Death Rates in Transplant Patients

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New research has recently found that having an unhealthy gut microbiome after a solid organ transplant increases the risk of death. These patterns are linked to deaths from cancer and infection, regardless of the type of organ that was transplanted.

The researchers say that the gut microbiome is the collection of bacteria in our digestive system. It is connected to different diseases like inflammatory bowel disease and diabetes. But there have not been many studies that can analyze how the gut microbiome affects long-term survival. They also mention that when the bacteria in our gut become imbalanced, it can increase the risk of death. But it’s not clear if this imbalance is also connected to survival rates in specific diseases. 

This research was recently published in the journal Gut. In this study, researchers studied microbiome profiles from 1,337 fecal samples from 766 kidney, 334 liver, 170 lung, and 67 heart transplant recipients and compared them with gut microbiome profiles of 8,208 people in the northern Netherlands. Those people who received transplants were around 57 years old on average.

More than half of them were men, specifically 784 out of the total number. On average, they had their transplant surgery before 7.5 years. Researchers mainly wanted to understand the link between gut microbiome and death in solid organ transplant recipients. So, they tracked these people for 6.5 years.  

When researchers observed the collected data, they found that 162 people who received organ transplants died. Out of these, 88 had kidney transplants, 33 had liver transplants, 35 had lung transplants and 6 had heart transplants.  

Researchers then examined gut dysbiosis indicators in samples such as microbial diversity, differences from the general population’s microbiome, the prevalence of antibiotic resistance genes and virulence factors that enable bacteria to invade cells and bypass immune defenses. Then they found that recipients with divergent gut microbiome patterns were more likely to die sooner after their procedure, regardless of the organ transplanted. 

The researchers identified 23 bacterial species that are associated with a higher or lower risk of death from all causes. An abundance of four Clostridium species was linked to death from all causes and infection. On the other hand, an abundance of Hangatella Hathewayi and Veillonella parvula were linked to death from all causes and infection. High numbers of Ruminococcus gnavus were associated with death from all causes and cancer. 

The study found that these bacterial species produce butyrate. It is a short-chain fatty acid that aids in gut wall integrity and anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, 19 different species were found that may be associated with an increased risk of death. 

This study is just observing so researchers cannot make any definite conclusions about the specific bacteria causing some side effects. But the researchers think that the results show a connection between an unhealthy gut and long-term survival. They suggest that treatments that target the gut microbiome might help improve patient outcomes. Hence healthcare professionals should carefully consider this study. But there is a need for further research to understand more about it. 

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