Objectives: The severity of familial Mediterranean fever (FMF) may vary in different areas, suggesting a role for environmental factors. We analysed the composition of gut microbiota among children with FMF and healthy controls from Turkey and the USA and determined its effect on disease severity.
Methods: Children with FMF with pathogenic MEFV mutations and healthy controls from Turkey and the USA were enrolled. FMF disease activity was evaluated with the Autoinflammatory Disease Activity Index (AIDAI). Gut bacterial diversity was assessed by sequencing 16S rRNA gene libraries.
Results: We included 36 children from Turkey (28 patients with FMF, 8 healthy controls), and 21 patients and 6 controls from the USA. In the Turkish group, 28.6% of patients had severe disease, while 13.3% of US group patients had severe disease. As expected, we observed substantial differences between the gut microbiota of children from the two geographic regions, with Turkish patients and controls exhibiting higher relative abundances of Bacteriodia, while US patients and controls exhibited higher relative abundances of Clostridia. Alpha- and betadiversity did not differ significantly between FMF patients and controls, and neither was predictive of disease severity within each geographic region. We observed differences between FMF patients and controls in the relative abundance of some bacterial taxa at the amplicon sequence variant (ASV) level, but these differences received mixed statistical support.
Conclusions: Among an international cohort of children with FMF, we did not find a strong effect of gut microbiota composition on disease severity. Other environmental or epigenetic factors may be operative.