Background: The incidence of esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) has been increasing over the last 40 years. While Barrett's esophagus is a known risk factor for the development of EAC, the role of the microflora in the development of EAC is still largely unknown and is being investigated further by multiple centers. Our goal was to identify trends in microflora composition along various aspects of the upper gastrointestinal tract in patients with Barrett's esophagus.
Methods: After obtaining institutional review board approval, 12 patients agreed to participate in the study. While endoscopy was performed for surveillance Barrett's monitoring, additional biopsies of esophageal mucosa were taken from the (I) proximal esophagus, (II) mid-esophagus, (III) distal esophagus, and (IV) Barrett's esophagus. Additional swabs were also taken from the uvula and the endoscope used during the procedure. The swabs from the uvula and endoscope were obtained prior to the endoscope entering the stomach, to prevent exposing the endoscope to the acidic environment of the stomach. The most common bacterial elements were identified by amplifying sample DNA using a panel of 5 "universal" fusion primer pairs. The 400-500 base pair fragments created an overlap which covered 95% of the bacterial 16s gene.
Results: Throughout the esophagus, 34 bacterial genera were found which had a relative abundance of >1.0. Streptococcal genera were prevalent in all aspects of the esophagus, ranging from 16% to 70% of the bacterial community. Haemophilus genera were uniquely abundant in the Barrett's esophageal tissue but relatively absent elsewhere in the upper gastrointestinal tract. Overall, the percentage of Gram-positive organisms was much higher in the proximal than distal esophagus. The microflora pattern obtained from the uvula and endoscopic swabs did not correlate with any of the tissue biopsies along any aspect of the esophagus.
Conclusions: In patients with Barrett's esophagus, Streptococcal genera are widespread throughout the esophagus. Gram-positive genera tend to decrease as a percentage of overall flora distally. Obtaining a simple swab of the oropharynx or endoscope itself appears to be a poor substitute for tissue biopsy of esophageal mucosa when evaluating microflora patterns.
Keywords: Microbiome; esophagoscopy; genomics.
Conflict of interest statement
Conflicts of Interest: The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.
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