Temporal dynamics of the plasma microbiome in recipients at early post-liver transplantation: a retrospective study

BMC Microbiol. 2021 Apr 6;21(1):104. doi: 10.1186/s12866-021-02154-w.


Background: Immunosuppression during liver transplantation (LT) enables the prevention and treatment of organ rejection but poses a risk for severe infectious diseases. Immune modulation and antimicrobials affect the plasma microbiome. Thus, determining the impact of immunosuppression on the microbiome may be important to understand immunocompetence, elucidate the source of infection, and predict the risk of infection in LT recipients. We characterized the plasma microbiome of LT recipients at early post-LT and assessed the association between the microbiome and clinical events.

Results: In this study, 51 patients who received LT at Nagoya University Hospital from 2016 to 2018 were enrolled. Plasma samples were retrospectively collected at the following time points: 1) within a week after LT; 2) 4 ± 1 weeks after LT; 3) 8 ± 1 weeks after LT; and 4) within 2 days after a positive blood culture. A total of 111 plasma samples were analyzed using shotgun next-generation sequencing (NGS) with the PATHDET pipeline. Relative abundance of Anelloviridae, Nocardiaceae, Microbacteriaceae, and Enterobacteriaceae significantly changed during the postoperative period. Microbiome diversity was higher within a week after LT than that at 8 weeks after LT. Antimicrobials were significantly associated with the microbiome of LT recipients. In addition, the proportion of Enterobacteriaceae was significantly increased and the plasma microbiome diversity was significantly lower in patients with acute cellular rejection (ACR) than non-ACR patients. Sequencing reads of bacteria isolated from blood cultures were predominantly identified by NGS in 8 of 16 samples, and human herpesvirus 6 was detected as a causative pathogen in one recipient with severe clinical condition.

Conclusions: The metagenomic NGS technique has great potential in revealing the plasma microbiome and is useful as a comprehensive diagnostic procedure in clinical settings. Temporal dynamics of specific microorganisms may be used as indirect markers for the determination of immunocompetence and ACR in LT recipients.

Keywords: Acute cellular rejection; Enterobacteriaceae; Liver transplantation; Next-generation sequencing; Plasma microbiome.