- 1Gastrointestinal Unit, University of Michigan, United States. Electronic address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 2Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, United States; Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, United States.
- 3Kaleido Biosciences Inc, Lexington, MA, United States.
- 4Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, United States; Liver Center, Gastroenterology Division, Massachusetts General Hospital, United States. Electronic address: email@example.com.
Introduction and objectives: Hepatic encephalopathy (HE) is a complication of cirrhosis linked to the microbiome. We aimed to characterize the fecal microbiome of patients with prior and future overt HE, and explore the relationship between fecal species, short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and ammonia on HE pathogenesis.
Materials and methods: Consecutive inpatients and outpatients with cirrhosis were recruited. A single stool sample was collected and underwent shallow shotgun sequencing, and SCFA and ammonia quantification. Patients were followed until the end of the study period. Prior and new overt HE was diagnosed by the treating hepatologist.
Results: Forty-nine patients with cirrhosis, mean MELD-Na 20 (SD = 9) and 33 (67%) with a history of OHE provided a stool sample. Over a median 85 days of follow up (interquartile range 34 to 181 days), 16 developed an OHE episode. Eight fecal bacterial species were associated with a history of OHE, and no species predicted future OHE. Bacterial species positively associated with SCFA content were inversely related to cirrhosis disease severity. Patients with a history of OHE had lower concentrations of 6 fecal SCFAs. Fecal ammonia concentrations were similar between those with and without a history of OHE (273 μmol/g ± 214 vs. 327 ± 234, P = 0.43).
Conclusions: We found 8 fecal species and 6 SCFAs linked to OHE. Many of the species inversely linked to OHE also have an association with SCFA production. Further work is needed to detail this relationship and to develop targeted interventions to treat HE.