Gut microbiota plays an essential role in health and disease. It is constantly evolving and in permanent communication with its host. The gut microbiota is increasingly seen as an organ, and its failure, reflected by dysbiosis, is seen as an organ failure associated with poor outcomes. Critically ill patients may have an altered gut microbiota, namely dysbiosis, with a severe reduction in "health-promoting" commensal intestinal bacteria (such as Firmicutes or Bacteroidetes) and an increase in potentially pathogenic bacteria (e.g. Proteobacteria). Many factors that occur in critically ill patients favour dysbiosis, such as medications or changes in nutrition patterns. Dysbiosis leads to several important effects, including changes in gut integrity and in the production of metabolites such as short-chain fatty acids and trimethylamine N-oxide. There is increasing evidence that gut microbiota and its alteration interact with other organs, highlighting the concept of the gut-organ axis. Thus, dysbiosis will affect other organs and could have an impact on the progression of critical diseases. Current knowledge is only a small part of what remains to be discovered. The precise role and contribution of the gut microbiota and its interactions with various organs is an intense and challenging research area that offers exciting opportunities for disease prevention, management and therapy, particularly in critical care where multi-organ failure is often the focus. This narrative review provides an overview of the normal composition of the gut microbiota, its functions, the mechanisms leading to dysbiosis, its consequences in an intensive care setting, and highlights the concept of the gut-organ axis.
Keywords: Critical care; Dysbiosis; Gut microbiota; Gut–organ axis.
© 2022. The Author(s).