A Distinct Plasma Microbiome But Not Gut Microbiome in Patients With Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Compared to Healthy Individuals

J Rheumatol. 2022 Jun;49(6):592-597. doi: 10.3899/jrheum.210952. Epub 2022 Feb 15.


Objective: Blood microbiome has been analyzed in cancer patients using machine learning. We aimed to study whether the plasma microbiome represents the microbial community in the gut among patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and healthy controls (HCs).

Methods: Paired plasma and stool samples from female patients with SLE and female HCs were assessed for microbiome composition by microbial 16S ribosomal RNA sequencing.

Results: Decreased microbial alpha diversity in stool compared to plasma and distinct plasma and gut beta diversity were found in both HCs and patients with SLE. No difference in gut microbial diversity was found; however, plasma alpha diversity was decreased in patients with SLE compared to HCs. The predominant bacteria differed between plasma and stool in both groups. Although the predominant plasma and stool genus bacteria were similar in patients with SLE and HCs, some were clearly different.

Conclusion: Compared to the gut, the plasma microbiome contained distinct community and greater heterogeneity, indicating that the predominant circulating microbiome may originate from sites (eg, oral or skin) other than the gastrointestinal tract. The decreased plasma but not gut alpha diversity in patients with SLE compared to HCs implies an altered plasma microbiome in SLE, which may be important for systemic immune perturbations and SLE disease pathogenesis.

Keywords: autoantibodies; autoimmune diseases; autoimmunity; bacteria; systemic lupus erythematosus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria
  • Feces
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic*
  • Microbiota*