Blastocystis is associated with decrease of fecal microbiota protective bacteria: comparative analysis between patients with irritable bowel syndrome and control subjects

PLoS One. 2014 Nov 3;9(11):e111868. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0111868. eCollection 2014.


Blastocystis is a protistan parasite living in the digestive tract of many animals, including humans. This highly prevalent intestinal parasite is suspected to be linked to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a chronic functional bowel disorder. Here, we first compared the prevalence of Blastocystis among 56 IBS patients (40 IBS with constipation (IBS-C), 9 IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D), 4 mixed IBS (IBS-M) and 3 unsubtyped IBS (IBS-U) according to the Rome III criteria) and 56 control (i.e. without any diagnosed chronic or acute gastrointestinal disorder) subjects. The highest prevalence of Blastocystis spp. was observed in the IBS group, but was only statistically significant in men (36.8% in the IBS group versus 4.8% in the control group). We then conducted a meta-analysis including epidemiological studies attempting to determine whether Blastocystis carriage could be linked to IBS, and highlighted that IBS patients had a relative risk of 2.34 to be infected by Blastocystis when compared to non-IBS subjects. We also looked for Dientamoeba fragilis, which is often associated with IBS, and identified this parasite only in some IBS patients (n = 6/56). Several studies provided evidence for a major role of the gut microbiota in the pathophysiology of IBS. Thus, we investigated the possible impact of Blastocystis carriage on the enteric bacterial community through quantification of 8 major bacterial groups from the enteric flora. Our data indicated that men with IBS-C had a significant decrease in Bifidobacterium sp. when infected by Blastocystis. Interestingly, in control subjects (i.e. without any gastrointestinal disorder) positive for Blastocystis, Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, which is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, was significantly decreased in men. Our results support the hypothesis that Blastocystis might be linked to the pathophysiology of IBS-C and intestinal flora imbalance.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blastocystis / microbiology*
  • Blastocystis Infections / microbiology*
  • Feces* / microbiology
  • Feces* / parasitology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome* / microbiology
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome* / parasitology
  • Male
  • Microbiota*
  • Middle Aged

Grant support

The authors have no support or funding to report.