The early detection of liver fibrosis among patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is an important clinical need. In view of the suggested role played by bacterial translocation in liver disease and obesity, we sought to investigate the relationship between blood microbiota and liver fibrosis (LF) in European cohorts of patients with severe obesity. We carried out a cross-sectional study of obese patients, well characterized with respect to the severity of the NAFLD, in the cohort FLORINASH. This cohort has been divided into a discovery cohort comprising 50 Spanish patients and then in a validation cohort of 71 Italian patients. Blood bacterial DNA was analyzed both quantitatively by 16S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) quantitative polymerase chain reaction and qualitatively by 16S rDNA targeted metagenomic sequencing and functional metagenome prediction. Spanish plasma bile acid contents were analyzed by liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry. The 16S rDNA concentration was significantly higher in patients of the discovery cohort with LF. By 16S sequencing, we found specific differences in the proportion of several bacterial taxa in both blood and feces that correlate with the presence of LF, thus defining a specific signature of the liver disease. Several secondary/primary bile acid ratios were also decreased with LF in the discovery cohort. We confirmed, in the validation cohort, the correlation between blood 16S rDNA concentration and LF, whereas we did not confirm the specific bacterial taxa signature, despite a similar trend in patients with more-severe fibrosis.
Conclusion: Changes in blood microbiota are associated with LF in obese patients. Blood microbiota analysis provides potential biomarkers for the detection of LF in this population. (Hepatology 2016;64:2015-2027).
© 2016 by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.