Small intestinal mucosal immunity and morphometry in luminal overgrowth of indigenous gut flora

Am J Gastroenterol. 2001 Feb;96(2):494-500. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.2001.03533.x.


Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate the separate effects of indigenous oropharyngeal- and colonic-type flora on small intestinal mucosal immunity and morphometry in small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).

Methods: A duodenal aspirate and random biopsies of underlying mucosa were obtained from 52 adult subjects (age range, 18-90 yr; median, 60 yr) without disorders that may otherwise disturb small intestinal histology or mucosal immunity. Villus height, crypt depth, villus/crypt ratios, counts of intraepithelial lymphocytes (IELs) and lamina propria total mononuclear cells, IgA, IgM, and IgG plasma cells, mast cells, and B and T lymphocytes were determined in relation to the presence or absence of SIBO and the nature of the overgrowth flora in all subjects. CD4+ve and CD8+ve T-cell counts were determined in 24 subjects.

Results: SIBO was present in 26 of 52 (50%) subjects. Overgrowth flora included colonic-type bacteria in 20 subjects and oropharyngeal-type flora alone in 6 subjects. Lamina propria IgA plasma cell counts were significantly increased in subjects with SIBO, irrespective of whether the overgrowth flora comprised oropharyngeal-type flora alone or included colonic-type bacteria. Neither villus height, crypt depth, villus/crypt ratios, nor total or other mononuclear cell counts in lamina propria differed significantly between subjects with and without SIBO, irrespective of the nature of the overgrowth flora. IEL counts were significantly higher than in culture-negative subjects only when the overgrowth flora included colonic-type bacteria. Even then, IEL counts were within a range currently considered normal. A significant, inverse correlation between advancing age and IEL counts became apparent after adjusting for the effect of SIBO of colonic-type flora.

Conclusions: SIBO of oropharyngeal- and colonic-type flora are associated with differing disturbances of local duodenal mucosa. Nonetheless, these would not be readily apparent during routine histological assessment. Old age independently influences duodenal IEL counts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Infections / immunology*
  • Bacterial Infections / pathology
  • Biopsy
  • Colon / microbiology
  • Duodenal Diseases / immunology
  • Duodenal Diseases / microbiology*
  • Duodenal Diseases / pathology
  • Duodenum / microbiology*
  • Duodenum / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Mucosal / immunology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Middle Aged
  • Oropharynx / microbiology
  • Plasma Cells / pathology