Real-time polymerase chain reaction quantification of specific butyrate-producing bacteria, Desulfovibrio and Enterococcus faecalis in the feces of patients with colorectal cancer

J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008 Aug;23(8 Pt 1):1298-303. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1746.2008.05490.x. Epub 2008 Jul 8.


Background and aim: Bacterial metabolites produced in the bowel are potentially related to the genesis of colorectal cancer. Butyrate is protective against cancer, whereas hydrogen sulfide and oxygen free radicals can be toxic to the epithelium. The present study was designed to quantitate Eubacterium rectale, Faecalibacterium prausnitzii (both butyrate-producing bacteria), Desulfovibrio (sulfate-reducing bacteria), and Enterococcus faecalis (that produces extracellular superoxide) in the feces of patients with colorectal cancer.

Methods: DNA was extracted from feces of 20 patients with colorectal cancer, nine patients with upper gastrointestinal cancer and 17 healthy volunteers. Real-time polymerase chain reaction using primers aimed at 16S rDNA was used to quantitate the above bacterial species or genus, and this was expressed relative to amplification of universal sequences conserved among all bacteria.

Results: Levels of E. rectale and F. prausnitzii were decreased approximately fourfold (P = 0.0088 and 0.0028, respectively) in colorectal cancer patients compared to healthy control volunteers. Levels of Desulfovibrio were not significantly different between the three groups. E. faecalis populations were significantly higher in colorectal cancer patients compared to healthy volunteers (P = 0.0294).

Conclusions: Butyrate producers were decreased and E. faecalis increased in the feces of colon cancer patients. These shifts in the colonic bacterial population could potentially lead to epithelial cell damage and increased turnover and may be a factor leading to colon cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Butyrates / metabolism
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / microbiology*
  • DNA, Bacterial / isolation & purification
  • Desulfovibrio / isolation & purification*
  • Desulfovibrio / metabolism
  • Enterococcus faecalis / isolation & purification*
  • Enterococcus faecalis / metabolism
  • Eubacterium / isolation & purification
  • Eubacterium / metabolism
  • Feces / microbiology*
  • Female
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Young Adult


  • Butyrates
  • DNA, Bacterial