Unhealthy Microbiome May Raise Death Risk After Organ Transplant

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Key Takeaways

  • A person’s gut microbiome could worsen their outlook following an organ transplant

  • People with 'unhealthy' microbiomes are more likely to die following a transplant

  • In particular, they are more vulnerable to cancer and infection

WEDNESDAY, July 10, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- People with an “unhealthy” gut microbiome appear to be more likely to die following an organ transplant, a new study warns.

These gut microbe patterns are specifically associated with deaths from cancer and infection, regardless of the organ that’s been transplanted, researchers reported recently in the journal Gut.

“Across kidney, liver, heart and lung transplant recipients, we identified two overall microbial community variation patterns that are associated with all-cause mortality independent of the type of organ transplant, and specifically to death from malignancy and infection,” wrote the team led by Johannes Bjork, a fellow at University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands.

The results indicate that the health of a person’s gut microbiome should be considered when preparing for an organ transplant, the researchers concluded in a journal news release.

The makeup of the gut microbiome has been previously associated with diseases like inflammatory bowel disease and diabetes.

However, few studies have been able to link gut health to long-term survival, researchers said.

For this study, researchers analyzed the microbiome profiles from more than 1,300 fecal samples provided by transplant patients, and compared them to the microbiomes of more than 8,200 other people living in the same part of the northern Netherlands.

The more that the gut microbiome patterns of transplant recipients diverged from those of the general population, the more likely they were to die sooner following their transplant, researchers found. 

Further investigation revealed 19 bacterial species that specifically increase a transplant patient’s risk of death.

For example, people with an abundance of four Clostridium bacterial species had an increased risk of death, particularly from infection, researchers said.

Another set of bacterial species was associated with an increased risk of death from cancer. Those species all produce butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and helps maintain gut wall integrity, researchers noted.

More information

The Cleveland Clinic has more about the gut microbiome.

SOURCE: BMJ Group, news release, July 9, 2024

What This Means For You

In the future, a person’s gut microbiome might be one factor weighed when preparing for an organ transplant.

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