Published online Oct 7, 2017. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v23.i37.6747
Peer-review started: June 24, 2017
First decision: July 13, 2017
Revised: July 30, 2017
Accepted: August 25, 2017
Article in press: August 25, 2017
Published online: October 7, 2017
A number of alterations have been found within the gut microbial profile of patients with inflammatory bowel diseases when compared with the healthy population; however, it is unclear whether such dysbiosis is the cause or simply the consequence of the disease state. In ulcerative colitis, the environment seems to play a crucial role in disease etiology since monozygotic twins show a concordance rate of only 8%-10% - though it is unclear whether it does so by acting through the microbiome. In this study, the authors investigated the influence of cohabitation on the gut microbial community in healthy partners of ulcerative colitis patients - with the intent of clarifying some of these issues. As expected, ulcerative colitis patients had a significant dysbiosis and alterations in microbial metabolism. Interestingly, these abnormal fecal microbial communities were relatively similar amongst patients and their spouses. Thus, this study shows that the microbial profile might be partially transferred from ulcerative colitis patients to healthy individuals. Whether this finding impacts on disease development or has any implication for the role of the microbiome in inflammatory bowel disease etiology remains to be determined.
Core tip: Dysbiosis in inflammatory bowel diseases is common. However, microbial dysbiosis could be a consequence, rather than cause of the disease state. In this study the authors detected dysbiosis and altered microbial metabolism not only in ulcerative colitis patients but also in their healthy cohabiting partners. Therefore, the microbiome might be partially transferred from ulcerative colitis patients to healthy individuals. Since spouses of ulcerative colitis patients do not have an increased risk of developing the disease this study suggests that dysbiosis might be an effect rather than the cause of the disease. Overall, the precise role of the microbiome in inflammatory bowel disease etiology remains unknown.