Functional Restoration of Bacteriomes and Viromes by Fecal Microbiota Transplantation

Gastroenterology. 2021 May;160(6):2089-2102.e12. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2021.02.013. Epub 2021 Feb 9.


Background & aims: Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) is an effective therapy for recurrent Clostridioides difficile infection (rCDI). However, the overall mechanisms underlying FMT success await comprehensive elucidation, and the safety of FMT has recently become a serious concern because of the occurrence of drug-resistant bacteremia transmitted by FMT. We investigated whether functional restoration of the bacteriomes and viromes by FMT could be an indicator of successful FMT.

Methods: The human intestinal bacteriomes and viromes from 9 patients with rCDI who had undergone successful FMT and their donors were analyzed. Prophage-based and CRISPR spacer-based host bacteria-phage associations in samples from recipients before and after FMT and in donor samples were examined. The gene functions of intestinal microorganisms affected by FMT were evaluated.

Results: Metagenomic sequencing of both the viromes and bacteriomes revealed that FMT does change the characteristics of intestinal bacteriomes and viromes in recipients after FMT compared with those before FMT. In particular, many Proteobacteria, the fecal abundance of which was high before FMT, were eliminated, and the proportion of Microviridae increased in recipients. Most temperate phages also behaved in parallel with the host bacteria that were altered by FMT. Furthermore, the identification of bacterial and viral gene functions before and after FMT revealed that some distinctive pathways, including fluorobenzoate degradation and secondary bile acid biosynthesis, were significantly represented.

Conclusions: The coordinated action of phages and their host bacteria restored the recipients' intestinal flora. These findings show that the restoration of intestinal microflora functions reflects the success of FMT.

Keywords: Bacteriome; Bacteriophage; Clostridioides difficile infection; Fecal Microbiota Transplantation; Virome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bacteriophages
  • Clostridioides difficile
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / microbiology
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / therapy*
  • Fecal Microbiota Transplantation*
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome* / genetics
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / virology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metagenomics
  • Microviridae
  • Middle Aged
  • Proteobacteria
  • Virome* / genetics