Air pollution effects on the gut microbiota: a link between exposure and inflammatory disease

Gut Microbes. 2014 Mar-Apr;5(2):215-9. doi: 10.4161/gmic.27251. Epub 2013 Dec 20.


Global incidence rates for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have gradually risen over the past 20 years. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified over 160 genetic loci associated with IBD; however, inherited factors only account for a partial contribution to the disease risk. We have recently shown that urban airborne particulate matter (PM) ingested via contaminated food can alter gut microbiome and immune function under normal and inflammatory conditions. In this addendum, we will discuss how PM can modify the gut microbial form and function, provide evidence on changes seen in intestinal barrier, and suggest a working hypothesis of how pollutants affect the gastrointestinal tract. The significance of the work presented could lead to identifying airborne pollutants as potential risk factors and thus provide better patient care management.

Keywords: air pollution; cytokines; environment; gut microbiota; intestinal permeability; mucosal inflammation; short chain fatty acids.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Animals
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / drug effects
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / microbiology
  • Intestines / drug effects
  • Intestines / microbiology
  • Microbiota / drug effects
  • Particulate Matter / toxicity


  • Particulate Matter