Microplastics and the gut microbiome: How chronically exposed species may suffer from gut dysbiosis

Mar Pollut Bull. 2019 Jun;143:193-203. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2019.04.030. Epub 2019 Apr 28.


As small pieces of plastics known as microplastics pollute even the remotest parts of Earth, research currently focuses on unveiling how this pollution may affect biota. Despite increasing awareness, one potentially major consequence of chronic exposure to microplastics has been largely neglected: the impact of the disruption of the symbiosis between host and the natural community and abundance pattern of the gut microbiota. This so-called dysbiosis might be caused by the consumption of microplastics, associated mechanical disruption within the gastrointestinal tract, the ingestion of foreign and potentially pathogenic bacteria, as well as chemicals, which make-up or adhere to microplastics. Dysbiosis may interfere with the host immune system and trigger the onset of (chronic) diseases, promote pathogenic infections, and alter the gene capacity and expression of gut microbiota. We summarize how chronically exposed species may suffer from microplastics-induced gut dysbiosis, deteriorating host health, and highlight corresponding future directions of research.

Keywords: Dysbiosis; Gut microbiome; Microplastics; Pollution; Wildlife health.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dietary Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Dysbiosis / chemically induced*
  • Dysbiosis / veterinary
  • Ecotoxicology
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Microplastics / toxicity*
  • Symbiosis
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity


  • Microplastics
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical