Classification of the Gut Microbiota of Patients in Intensive Care Units During Development of Sepsis and Septic Shock

Genomics Proteomics Bioinformatics. 2020 Dec;18(6):696-707. doi: 10.1016/j.gpb.2020.06.011. Epub 2021 Feb 17.


The gut microbiota of intensive care unit (ICU) patients displays extreme dysbiosis associated with increased susceptibility to organ failure, sepsis, and septic shock. However, such dysbiosis is difficult to characterize owing to the high dimensional complexity of the gut microbiota. We tested whether the concept of enterotype can be applied to the gut microbiota of ICU patients to describe the dysbiosis. We collected 131 fecal samples from 64 ICU patients diagnosed with sepsis or septic shock and performed 16S rRNA gene sequencing to dissect their gut microbiota compositions. During the development of sepsis or septic shock and during various medical treatments, the ICU patients always exhibited two dysbiotic microbiota patterns, or ICU-enterotypes, which could not be explained by host properties such as age, sex, and body mass index, or external stressors such as infection site and antibiotic use. ICU-enterotype I (ICU E1) comprised predominantly Bacteroides and an unclassified genus of Enterobacteriaceae, while ICU-enterotype II (ICU E2) comprised predominantly Enterococcus. Among more critically ill patients with Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II (APACHE II) scores > 18, septic shock was more likely to occur with ICU E1 (P = 0.041). Additionally, ICU E1 was correlated with high serum lactate levels (P = 0.007). Therefore, different patterns of dysbiosis were correlated with different clinical outcomes, suggesting that ICU-enterotypes should be diagnosed as independent clinical indices. Thus, the microbial-based human index classifier we propose is precise and effective for timely monitoring of ICU-enterotypes of individual patients. This work is a first step toward precision medicine for septic patients based on their gut microbiota profiles.

Keywords: Enterotype; Gut microbiota; Precision medicine; Sepsis; Septic shock.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Sepsis*
  • Shock, Septic*


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S