Comparison of the gut microbiome composition among individuals with acute or long-standing spinal cord injury vs. able-bodied controls

J Spinal Cord Med. 2022 Jan;45(1):91-99. doi: 10.1080/10790268.2020.1769949. Epub 2020 Jun 4.


Objective: Compare the gut microbiome composition among individuals with acute spinal cord injury (A-SCI), long-standing SCI (L-SCI), vs. able-bodied (AB) controls.Design: Cross-sectional study.Setting: The University of Alabama at Birmingham.Participants: Seven adults with A-SCI (36 ± 12 years, 2F/5M, C4-T10, and American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale [AIS] A-D), 25 with L-SCI (46 ± 13 years, 6F/19M, C4-L1, and AIS A-D), and 25 AB controls (42 ± 13 years, 9F/16M).Methods: Stool samples were collected after a median of 7 days and 18 years after injury in the A-SCI and L-SCI groups, respectively. Gut microbiome composition was analyzed using the 16S rRNA sequencing technique and QIIME software. The abundances of bacteria communities among groups were compared using the Kruskal-Wallis test adjusted for age.Results: Several alpha diversity indices were different among groups (Chao1, Observed species, and Phylogenetic Diversity), but not others (Shannon and Simpson). Beta diversity differed among each pair of groups (P < 0.05). A number of microbial communities were differentially abundant among the groups (P < 0.05).Conclusion: Our results revealed differences in the gut microbiome composition among groups. Compared to the AB controls, the SCI groups demonstrated microbiome profiles that shared features linked to metabolic syndrome, inflammation-related bowel disorders, depressive disorders, or antibiotics use, whereas the L-SCI group's microbiome included features linked to reduced physical activity compared to the A-SCI and AB controls. Our results provided preliminary data and a scientific foundation for future studies investigating the impact of the gut microbiome composition on long-term health in individuals with SCI.

Keywords: Gut dysbiosis; Inflammation; Metabolic disorders; Spinal cord injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Spinal Cord Injuries*


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S