Analysis of the gut microbiota in alopecia areata: identification of bacterial biomarkers

J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2020 Feb;34(2):400-405. doi: 10.1111/jdv.15885. Epub 2019 Oct 2.

Abstract

Background: Alopecia areata is a T-cell-mediated autoimmune disease with an unknown etiopathogenesis. Gut microbiota has been revealed as a key modulator of systemic immunity.

Objective: To determine whether patients affected by alopecia universalis present differences in gut bacteria composition compared with healthy controls and investigate possible bacterial biomarkers of the disease.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study that involved 15 patients affected by alopecia universalis and 15 controls. Gut microbiome of the study subjects was analysed by sequencing the 16SrRNA of stool samples. We searched for bacterial biomarkers of alopecia universalis using the linear discriminant analysis effect size (LEFse) tool.

Results: In total, 30 study subjects (46.6% female; mean [SD] age, 40.1 [9.8] years) were enrolled. Neither alpha (Shannon diversity index 5.31 ± 0.43 vs. 5.03 ± 0.43, P 0.1) or beta diversity (ADONIS P value: 0.35) of gut microbiota showed statistically significant differences between cases and controls. In patients affected with alopecia, we found an enriched presence (LDA SCORE > 2) of Holdemania filiformis, Erysipelotrichacea, Lachnospiraceae, Parabacteroides johnsonii, Clostridiales vadin BB60 group, Bacteroides eggerthii and Parabacteroides distasonis. A predictive model based on the number of bacterial counts of Parabacteroides distasonis and Clostridiales vadin BB60 group correctly predicted disease status in 80% of patients (AUC 0.804 (0.633-0.976), P 0.004).

Conclusion: Alopecia universalis does not seem to affect broadly gut microbiota structure. Bacterial biomarkers found associated with the disease (Holdemania filiformis, Erysipelotrichacea, Lachnospiraceae, Parabacteroides johnsonii, Eggerthellaceae, Clostridiales vadin BB60 group, Bacteroides eggerthii and Parabacteroides distasonis) should be further studied as they could be involved in its pathophysiology or be used as diagnostic tools.