Purpose of review: Investigation of the esophageal microbiome is a relatively new field. This review will outline data characterizing the esophageal microbiome in both health and disease states, including gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), Barrett's esophagus, esophageal cancer, eosinophilic esophagitis, and motility disorders.
Recent findings: While the esophagus was previously considered devoid of a significant bacterial population, development of culture-independent techniques, specifically 16S rRNA gene sequencing, as well as novel, minimally invasive microbial sampling modalities, has facilitated characterization of the esophageal microbiome in both health and several disease states. Although limited, there is evidence that the esophagus contains a diverse microbial population, with Gram-positive bacteria, specifically Streptococcus, dominating in health, while Gram-negative bacteria prevail in reflux disorders including GERD and Barrett's esophagus. The microbiome is altered with other esophageal disorders as well, including eosinophilic esophagitis and esophageal motility disorders, though these changes have been less well characterized. Characterization of the gut microbiome has advanced significantly; however, further investigation is essential. Understanding changes in the esophageal microbiome could affect our understanding of the natural history of diseases of the esophagus and present potential therapeutic approaches.
Keywords: Barrett’s esophagus; Eosinophilic esophagitis; Esophageal cancer; Esophageal microbiome; GERD.