Background: Poor air quality is increasingly associated with several gastrointestinal diseases suggesting a possible association between air quality and the human gut microbiome. However, details on this remain largely unexplored as current available research is scarce. The aim of this comprehensive rigorous review was to summarize the existing reports on the impact of indoor or outdoor airborne pollutants on the animal and human gut microbiome and to outline the challenges and suggestions to expand this field of research.
Methods and results: A comprehensive search of several databases (inception to August 9, 2019, humans and animals, English language only) was designed and conducted by an experienced librarian to identify studies describing the impact of air pollution on the human gut microbiome. The retrieved articles were assessed independently by two reviewers. This process yielded six original research papers on the animal GI gastrointestinal microbiome and four on the human gut microbiome. β-diversity analyses from selected animal studies demonstrated a significantly different composition of the gut microbiota between control and exposed groups but changes in α-diversity were less uniform. No consistent findings in α or β-diversity were reported among the human studies. Changes in microbiota at the phylum level disclosed substantial discrepancies across animal and human studies.
Conclusions: A different composition of the gut microbiome, particularly in animal models, is associated with exposure to air pollution. Air pollution is associated with various taxa changes, which however do not follow a clear pattern. Future research using standardized methods are critical to replicate these initial findings and advance this emerging field.
Keywords: Air pollution; Air quality; Gastrointestinal; Gut; Microbiome.
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