Dysbiosis in inflammatory bowel diseases: the oxygen hypothesis

ISME J. 2013 Jul;7(7):1256-61. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2013.80. Epub 2013 May 16.


The healthy intestine is characterized by a low level of oxygen and by the presence of large bacterial communities of obligate anaerobes. Dysbiosis of the gut microbiota has been reported in patients suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), but the mechanisms causing this imbalance remain unknown. Observations have included a decrease in obligate anaerobes of the phylum Firmicutes and an increase in facultative anaerobes, including members of the family Enterobacteriaceae. The shift of bacterial communities from obligate to facultative anaerobes strongly suggests a disruption in anaerobiosis and points to a role for oxygen in intestinal dysbiosis. Proposals to evaluate this hypothesis of a role for oxygen in IBD dysbiosis are provided. If this hypothesis is confirmed, decreasing oxygen in the intestine could open novel means to rebalance the microbiota and could provide novel preventative or therapeutic strategies for IBD patients in whom current treatments are ineffective.

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria, Anaerobic / physiology
  • Dysbiosis / microbiology*
  • Dysbiosis / pathology
  • Enterobacteriaceae / growth & development
  • Enterobacteriaceae / metabolism
  • Enterobacteriaceae / physiology
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / physiology
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / microbiology*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / pathology
  • Intestines / chemistry
  • Intestines / microbiology*
  • Oxygen / metabolism


  • Oxygen