Background: The biliary system is in continuous contact with the complex microbiota of the intestine. Microbial products have recently been proposed as potential triggers for biliary diseases.
Methods: The aim of this review is to provide a summary of the current knowledge regarding the role of the biliary and intestinal microbiome in biliary inflammatory diseases.
Results: Previously, it was suggested that the healthy biliary system is a sterile organ, while acute cholangitis and cholecystitis may occur from ascending infections. Although non-inflammatory biliary colonization by certain bacteria such as Salmonella spp. has been already recognized since several decades, human and animal studies indicated only very recently that the gallbladder harbors a complex microbiota also under non-pathologic conditions. Novel findings suggested that - similar to the situation in the intestine - the biliary mucosa features a chemical, mechanical, and immunological barrier, ensuring immunological tolerance against commensals. However, microbial triggers might influence acute and chronic inflammatory disease of the biliary system and the whole liver.
Conclusion: Although yet undefined, dysbiosis of the biliary or intestinal microbiota rather than a single microorganism may influence disease progression.
Keywords: Bile acids; Cholecystolithiasis; Gallstones; Microbiome; Microbiota; PBC; PSC; Primary biliary cirrhosis; Primary sclerosing cholangitis.