Background/aims: The pathogenesis of the inflammatory lesion in primary sclerosing cholangitis is unknown. We have recently demonstrated a high positivity rate of bacterial cultures in bile and bile ducts of explanted livers from primary sclerosing cholangitis patients compared with patients with primary biliary cirrhosis. In particular, alpha-hemolytic Streptococci was a frequent finding, suggesting an etiopathogenic role of that particular bacteria in primary sclerosing cholangitis. We therefore wanted to study naive primary sclerosing cholangitis patients and compare them with primary sclerosing cholangitis patients that have previously undergone endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, in order to evaluate the potential role of these bacteria in the etiopathogenesis in primary sclerosing cholangitis.
Methodology: Samples for bacterial cultures were obtained during a diagnostic endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography.
Participants: 12 naive primary sclerosing cholangitis patients, 10 patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis, previously investigated using endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, 47 patients with choledocholithiasis, 19 patients with cancer obstructing the common bile duct, and 29 patients with other forms of biliary disorders.
Results: Positive cultures were obtained from 3 of the naive primary sclerosing cholangitis patients and from 6 of the primary sclerosing cholangitis patients with previous endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (NS). The most frequent finding in all the primary sclerosing cholangitis patients was alpha-hemolytic Streptococci. Bacteria were cultured from the bile in 64% of the patients with choledocholithiasis, higher than the 25% in the naive primary sclerosing cholangitis patients (P < 0.03), and in 56% of patients with obstructing cancer (NS) but in only 24% of patients with other forms of biliary disorders, all of whom, except 4, had normal cholangiograms. In the 22 patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis, 75% of the positive bacterial cultures consisted of Gram-positive isolates and 25% were enteric bacteria, which differed statistically from the 74% enteric bacteria and 26% Gram-positive bacteria in the patients with common duct stone (P < 0.01).
Conclusions: Alpha-hemolytic Streptococci do not seem to play a primary role in the etiopathogenesis of primary sclerosing cholangitis since most naive primary sclerosing cholangitis patients were found to have negative bacterial cultures. This does not exclude the possibility that they play a role in the progression of primary sclerosing cholangitis following infection in conjunction with the first endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography.