The oral microbiota in colorectal cancer is distinctive and predictive

Gut. 2018 Aug;67(8):1454-1463. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2017-314814. Epub 2017 Oct 7.


Background and aims: Microbiota alterations are linked with colorectal cancer (CRC) and notably higher abundance of putative oral bacteria on colonic tumours. However, it is not known if colonic mucosa-associated taxa are indeed orally derived, if such cases are a distinct subset of patients or if the oral microbiome is generally suitable for screening for CRC.

Methods: We profiled the microbiota in oral swabs, colonic mucosae and stool from individuals with CRC (99 subjects), colorectal polyps (32) or controls (103).

Results: Several oral taxa were differentially abundant in CRC compared with controls, for example, Streptococcus and Prevotellas pp. A classification model of oral swab microbiota distinguished individuals with CRC or polyps from controls (sensitivity: 53% (CRC)/67% (polyps); specificity: 96%). Combining the data from faecal microbiota and oral swab microbiota increased the sensitivity of this model to 76% (CRC)/88% (polyps). We detected similar bacterial networks in colonic microbiota and oral microbiota datasets comprising putative oral biofilm forming bacteria. While these taxa were more abundant in CRC, core networks between pathogenic, CRC-associated oral bacteria such as Peptostreptococcus, Parvimonas and Fusobacterium were also detected in healthy controls. High abundance of Lachnospiraceae was negatively associated with the colonisation of colonic tissue with oral-like bacterial networks suggesting a protective role for certain microbiota types against CRC, possibly by conferring colonisation resistance to CRC-associated oral taxa and possibly mediated through habitual diet.

Conclusion: The heterogeneity of CRC may relate to microbiota types that either predispose or provide resistance to the disease, and profiling the oral microbiome may offer an alternative screen for detecting CRC.

Keywords: colonic bacteria; colorectal cancer; colorectal cancer screening; diet; tumour markers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Colonic Polyps / microbiology*
  • Colonic Polyps / pathology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / microbiology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microbiota*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth / microbiology*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity