Photobiomodulation of the microbiome: implications for metabolic and inflammatory diseases

Lasers Med Sci. 2019 Mar;34(2):317-327. doi: 10.1007/s10103-018-2594-6. Epub 2018 Aug 3.


The human microbiome is intimately associated with human health, with a role in obesity, metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, and divergent diseases such as cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. The microbiome can be changed by diet, probiotics, and faecal transplants, which has flow-on effects to health outcomes. Photobiomodulation has a therapeutic effect on inflammation and neurological disorders (amongst others) and has been reported to influence metabolic disorders and obesity. The aim of this study was to examine the possibility that PBM could influence the microbiome of mice. Mice had their abdomen irradiated with red (660 nm) or infrared (808 nm) low-level laser, either as single or multiple doses, over a 2-week period. Genomic DNA extracted from faecal pellets was pyrosequenced for the 16S rRNA gene. There was a significant (p < 0.05) difference in microbial diversity between PBM- and sham-treated mice. One genus of bacterium (Allobaculum) significantly increased (p < 0.001) after infrared (but not red light) PBM by day 14. Despite being a preliminary trial with small experimental numbers, we have demonstrated for the first time that PBM can alter microbiome diversity in healthy mice and increase numbers of Allobaculum, a bacterium associated with a healthy microbiome. This change is most probably a result of PBMt affecting the host, which in turn influenced the microbiome. If this is confirmed in humans, the possibility exists for PBMt to be used as an adjunct therapy in treatment of obesity and other lifestyle-related disorders, as well as cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. The clinical implications of altering the microbiome using PBM warrants further investigation.

Keywords: Allobaculum; Infrared laser; Microbiome; Photobiomodulation.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / radiotherapy*
  • Low-Level Light Therapy*
  • Male
  • Metabolic Diseases / radiotherapy*
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Microbiota / genetics
  • Microbiota / radiation effects*
  • Phylogeny
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S