Clinical studies have demonstrated that age 50 years or older is an independent risk factor associated with poor prognosis after burn injury, the second leading cause of traumatic injuries in the aged population. While mechanisms driving age-dependent postburn mortality are perplexing, changes in the intestinal microbiome, may contribute to the heightened, dysregulated systemic response seen in aging burn patients. The fecal microbiome from 22 patients admitted to a verified burn center from July 2018 to February 2019 was stratified based on the age of 50 years and total burn surface area (TBSA) size of ≥10%. Significant differences (P = .014) in overall microbiota community composition (ie, beta diversity) were measured across the four patient groups: young <10% TBSA, young ≥10% TBSA, older <10% TBSA, and older ≥10% TBSA. Differences in beta diversity were driven by %TBSA (P = .013) and trended with age (P = .087). Alpha diversity components, richness, evenness, and Shannon diversity were measured. We observed significant differences in bacterial species evenness (P = .0023) and Shannon diversity (P = .0033) between the groups. There were significant correlations between individual bacterial species and levels of short-chain fatty acids. Specifically, levels of fecal butyrate correlated with the presence of Enterobacteriaceae, an opportunistic gut pathogen, when elevated in burn patients lead to worsen outcomes. Overall, our findings reveal that age-specific changes in the fecal microbiome following burn injuries may contribute to immune system dysregulation in patients with varying TBSA burns and potentially lead to worsened clinical outcomes with heightened morbidity and mortality.
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