Systematic review: microbial dysbiosis and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2015 Nov;42(9):1051-63. doi: 10.1111/apt.13376. Epub 2015 Aug 24.


Background: The human intestinal microbiota is a key regulator of host metabolic and immune functions and alterations in the microbiome ('dysbiosis') have been implicated in several human diseases. Because of the anatomical links between the intestines and the liver, dysbiosis may also disrupt hepatic function and thereby contribute to the pathogenesis of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Aim: To perform a comprehensive review of the medical literature investigating associations between intestinal dysbiosis and NAFLD, with a particular emphasis on studies that characterise the microbiome in NAFLD.

Methods: We conducted a search of PubMed, Embase, and Web of Science using multiple search terms including: 'NAFLD, NASH, fatty liver, steatohepatitis' combined with 'metagenome, microbiom*, microbiota*, fecal flora, intestinal flora, gut bacteria'. Results were manually reviewed and studies selected based on relevance to intestinal microbiota and NAFLD. We also included studies that addressed potential mechanistic models of pathways linking the dysbiosis to NAFLD.

Results: Nine studies (five human and four animal models) were identified in our search that assessed associations between specific intestinal microbiota composition and NAFLD. We reviewed and summarised the results of additional investigations that more broadly addressed the mechanisms by which the microbiome may impact NAFLD pathogenesis.

Conclusions: Investigations in humans and animals demonstrate associations between intestinal dysbiosis and NAFLD; however, causality has not been proven and mechanistic links require further delineation. As the field of microbiome research matures in techniques and study design, more detailed insights into NAFLD pathogenesis and its associations with the intestinal microbiota will be elucidated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dysbiosis / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Intestines / microbiology*
  • Metagenome
  • Microbiota*
  • Models, Animal
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / microbiology*
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / physiopathology*