Alcohol dependence has traditionally been considered a brain disorder. Alteration in the composition of the gut microbiota has recently been shown to be present in psychiatric disorders, which suggests the possibility of gut-to-brain interactions in the development of alcohol dependence. The aim of the present study was to explore whether changes in gut permeability are linked to gut-microbiota composition and activity in alcohol-dependent subjects. We also investigated whether gut dysfunction is associated with the psychological symptoms of alcohol dependence. Finally, we tested the reversibility of the biological and behavioral parameters after a short-term detoxification program. We found that some, but not all, alcohol-dependent subjects developed gut leakiness, which was associated with higher scores of depression, anxiety, and alcohol craving after 3 wk of abstinence, which may be important psychological factors of relapse. Moreover, subjects with increased gut permeability also had altered composition and activity of the gut microbiota. These results suggest the existence of a gut-brain axis in alcohol dependence, which implicates the gut microbiota as an actor in the gut barrier and in behavioral disorders. Thus, the gut microbiota seems to be a previously unidentified target in the management of alcohol dependence.
Keywords: alcohol dependence; behavior; gut microbiota; gut permeability; gut–brain axis.