Intestinal lesions are associated with altered intestinal microbiome and are more frequent in children and young adults with cystic fibrosis and cirrhosis

PLoS One. 2015 Feb 6;10(2):e0116967. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0116967. eCollection 2015.


Background and aims: Cirrhosis (CIR) occurs in 5-7% of cystic fibrosis (CF) patients. We hypothesized that alterations in intestinal function in CF contribute to the development of CIR.

Aims: Determine the frequency of macroscopic intestinal lesions, intestinal inflammation, intestinal permeability and characterize fecal microbiome in CF CIR subjects and CF subjects with no liver disease (CFnoLIV).

Methods: 11 subjects with CFCIR (6 M, 12.8 yrs ± 3.8) and 19 matched with CFnoLIV (10 M, 12.6 yrs ± 3.4) underwent small bowel capsule endoscopy, intestinal permeability testing by urinary lactulose: mannitol excretion ratio, fecal calprotectin determination and fecal microbiome characterization.

Results: CFCIR and CFnoLIV did not differ in key demographics or CF complications. CFCIR had higher GGT (59±51 U/L vs 17±4 p = 0.02) and lower platelet count (187±126 vs 283±60 p = 0.04) and weight (-0.86 ± 1.0 vs 0.30 ± 0.9 p = 0.002) z scores. CFCIR had more severe intestinal mucosal lesions on capsule endoscopy (score ≥4, 4/11 vs 0/19 p = 0.01). Fecal calprotectin was similar between CFCIR and CFnoLIV (166 μg/g ±175 vs 136 ± 193 p = 0.58, nl <120). Lactulose:mannitol ratio was elevated in 27/28 subjects and was slightly lower in CFCIR vs CFnoLIV (0.08±0.02 vs 0.11±0.05, p = 0.04, nl ≤0.03). Small bowel transit time was longer in CFCIR vs CFnoLIV (195±42 min vs 167±68 p<0.001, nl 274 ± 41). Bacteroides were decreased in relative abundance in CFCIR and were associated with lower capsule endoscopy score whereas Clostridium were more abundant in CFCIR and associated with higher capsule endoscopy score.

Conclusions: CFCIR is associated with increased intestinal mucosal lesions, slower small bowel transit time and alterations in fecal microbiome. Abnormal intestinal permeability and elevated fecal calprotectin are common in all CF subjects. Disturbances in intestinal function in CF combined with changes in the microbiome may contribute to the development of hepatic fibrosis and intestinal lesions.

Publication types

  • Clinical Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Capsule Endoscopes
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Cystic Fibrosis / microbiology
  • Cystic Fibrosis / pathology*
  • Feces / microbiology*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology*
  • Leukocyte L1 Antigen Complex / analysis
  • Liver Cirrhosis / microbiology
  • Male
  • Permeability


  • Leukocyte L1 Antigen Complex