Alterations to the Esophageal Microbiome Associated with Progression from Barrett's Esophagus to Esophageal Adenocarcinoma

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2019 Oct;28(10):1687-1693. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-19-0008. Epub 2019 Aug 29.


Background: The incidence of esophageal adenocarcinoma has risen dramatically over the past half century, and the underlying reasons are incompletely understood. Broad shifts to the upper gastrointestinal microbiome may be partly responsible. The goal of this study was to describe alterations in the esophageal microbiome that occur with progression from Barrett's esophagus to esophageal adenocarcinoma.

Methods: A case-control study was performed of patients with and without Barrett's esophagus who were scheduled to undergo upper endoscopy. Demographic, clinical, and dietary intake data were collected, and esophageal brushings were collected during the endoscopy. 16S rRNA gene sequencing was performed to characterize the microbiome.

Results: A total of 45 patients were enrolled and included in the analyses [16 controls; 14 Barrett's esophagus without dysplasia (NDBE); 6 low-grade dysplasia (LGD); 5 high-grade dysplasia (HGD); and 4 esophageal adenocarcinoma]. There was no difference in alpha diversity between non-Barrett's esophagus and Barrett's esophagus, but there was evidence of decreased diversity in patients with esophageal adenocarcinoma as assessed by Simpson index. There was an apparent shift in composition at the transition from LGD to HGD, and patients with HGD and esophageal adenocarcinoma had decreased Firmicutes and increased Proteobacteria. In addition, patients with HGD or esophageal adenocarcinoma had increased Enterobacteriaceae and Akkermansia muciniphila and reduced Veillonella. In the study population, patients taking proton pump inhibitors had increased Streptococcus and decreased Gram-negative bacteria overall.

Conclusions: Shifts in the Barrett's esophagus-associated microbiome were observed in patients with HGD and esophageal adenocarcinoma, with increases in certain potentially pathogenic bacteria.

Impact: The microbiome may play a role in esophageal carcinogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / genetics
  • Adenocarcinoma / microbiology*
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Bacteria / classification*
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Barrett Esophagus / genetics
  • Barrett Esophagus / microbiology*
  • Barrett Esophagus / pathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / genetics
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / microbiology*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microbiota*
  • Middle Aged
  • Precancerous Conditions / genetics
  • Precancerous Conditions / microbiology*
  • Precancerous Conditions / pathology
  • Prognosis

Supplementary concepts

  • Adenocarcinoma Of Esophagus