Bacterial biota in reflux esophagitis and Barrett's esophagus

World J Gastroenterol. 2005 Dec 14;11(46):7277-83. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v11.i46.7277.


Aim: To identify the bacterial flora in conditions such as Barrettos esophagus and reflux esophagitis to determine if they are similar to normal esophageal flora.

Methods: Using broad-range 16S rDNA PCR, esophageal biopsies were examined from 24 patients [9 with normal esophageal mucosa, 12 with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and 3 with Barrettos esophagus]. Two separate broad-range PCR reactions were performed for each patient, and the resulting products were cloned. In one patient with Barrettos esophagus, 99 PCR clones were analyzed.

Results: Two separate clones were recovered from each patient (total = 48), representing 24 different species, with 14 species homologous to known bacteria, 5 homologous to unidentified bacteria, and 5 were not homologous (<97% identity) to any known bacterial 16S rDNA sequences. Seventeen species were found in the reflux esophagitis patients, 5 in the Barrettos esophagus patients, and 10 in normal esophagus patients. Further analysis concentrating on a single biopsy from an individual with Barrettos esophagus revealed the presence of 21 distinct bacterial species. Members of four phyla were represented, including Bacteroidetes, Firmicutes, Proteobacteria, and Actinobacteria. Microscopic examination of each biopsy demonstrated bacteria in intimate association with the distal esophageal epithelium, suggesting that the presence of these bacteria is not transitory.

Conclusion: These findings provide evidence for a complex, residential bacterial population in esophageal reflux-related disorders. While much of this biota is present in the normal esophagus, more detailed comparisons may help identify potential disease associations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Barrett Esophagus / microbiology*
  • Base Sequence
  • Case-Control Studies
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • DNA, Ribosomal / genetics
  • Esophagitis, Peptic / microbiology*
  • Esophagus / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Phylogeny


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • DNA, Ribosomal