Characterization of gut microbiomes in nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) patients: a connection between endogenous alcohol and NASH

Hepatology. 2013 Feb;57(2):601-9. doi: 10.1002/hep.26093. Epub 2013 Jan 8.


Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a serious liver disease associated with obesity. Characterized by metabolic syndrome, hepatic steatosis, and liver inflammation, NASH is believed to be under the influence of the gut microflora. Here, the composition of gut bacterial communities of NASH, obese, and healthy children was determined by 16S ribosomal RNA pyrosequencing. In addition, peripheral blood ethanol was analyzed to monitor endogenous ethanol production of patients and healthy controls. UniFrac-based principle coordinates analysis indicated that most of the microbiome samples clustered by disease status. Each group was associated with a unique pattern of enterotypes. Differences were abundant at phylum, family, and genus levels between healthy subjects and obese patients (with or without NASH), and relatively fewer differences were observed between obese and the NASH microbiomes. Among those taxa with greater than 1% representation in any of the disease groups, Proteobacteria, Enterobacteriaceae, and Escherichia were the only phylum, family and genus types exhibiting significant difference between obese and NASH microbiomes. Similar blood-ethanol concentrations were observed between healthy subjects and obese non-NASH patients, but NASH patients exhibited significantly elevated blood ethanol levels.

Conclusions: The increased abundance of alcohol-producing bacteria in NASH microbiomes, elevated blood-ethanol concentration in NASH patients, and the well-established role of alcohol metabolism in oxidative stress and, consequently, liver inflammation suggest a role for alcohol-producing microbiota in the pathogenesis of NASH. We postulate that the distinct composition of the gut microbiome among NASH, obese, and healthy controls could offer a target for intervention or a marker for disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Bacteroides / classification
  • Bacteroides / isolation & purification
  • Child
  • Ethanol / metabolism*
  • Fatty Liver / microbiology*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metagenome*
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
  • Obesity / microbiology*
  • Prevotella / isolation & purification
  • Proteobacteria / classification
  • Proteobacteria / isolation & purification
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Ethanol