Metagenomic Analysis of the Pediatric-Onset Multiple Sclerosis Gut Microbiome

Neurology. 2022 Mar 8;98(10):e1050-e1063. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000013245. Epub 2021 Dec 22.


Background and objectives: Little is known of the functional potential of the gut microbiome in pediatric-onset multiple sclerosis (MS). We performed metagenomic analyses using stool samples from individuals with pediatric-onset MS and unaffected controls.

Methods: Persons ≤21 years old enrolled in the Canadian Pediatric Demyelinating Disease Network providing a stool sample were eligible. Twenty patients with MS (McDonald criteria) with symptom onset <18 years were matched to 20 controls by sex, age (±3 years), stool consistency, and race. Microbial taxonomy and functional potentials were estimated from stool sample-derived metagenomic reads and compared by disease status (MS vs controls) and disease-modifying drug (DMD) exposure using alpha diversity, relative abundance, and prevalence using Wilcoxon rank sum, ALDEx2, and Fisher exact tests, respectively.

Results: Individuals with MS were aged 13.6 years (mean) at symptom onset and 8 were DMD-naive. Mean ages at stool sample were 16.1 and 15.4 years for MS and control participants, respectively; 80% were girls. Alpha diversity of enzymes and proteins did not differ by disease or DMD status (p > 0.20), but metabolic pathways, gene annotations, and microbial taxonomy did. Individuals with MS (vs controls) exhibited higher methanogenesis prevalence (odds ratio 10, p = 0.044) and Methanobrevibacter abundance (log2 fold change [LFC] 1.7, p = 0.0014), but lower homolactic fermentation abundance (LFC -0.48, p = 0.039). Differences by DMD status included lower phosphate butyryl transferase for DMD-naive vs exposed patients with MS (LFC -1.0, p = 0.033).

Discussion: The gut microbiome's functional potential and taxonomy differed between individuals with pediatric-onset MS vs controls, including higher prevalence of a methane-producing pathway from Archaea and depletion of the lactate fermentation pathway. DMD exposure was associated with butyrate-producing enzyme enrichment. Together these findings indicate that the gut microbiome of individuals with MS may have a disturbed functional potential.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Canada
  • Child
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Multiple Sclerosis*
  • Young Adult