Contribution of gut bacteria to arsenic metabolism in the first year of life in a prospective birth cohort

Environ Res. 2022 Nov;214(Pt 4):114099. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2022.114099. Epub 2022 Aug 23.


Gut bacteria are at the interface of environmental exposures and their impact on human systems, and may alter host absorption, metabolism, and excretion of toxic chemicals. We investigated whether arsenic-metabolizing bacterial gene pathways related to urinary arsenic concentrations. In the New Hampshire Birth Cohort Study, urine and stool samples were obtained at six weeks (n = 186) and one year (n = 190) of age. Inorganic arsenic (iAs), monomethylarsonic acid (MMA), dimethylarsinic acid (DMA), and arsenobetaine (AsB) were quantified in infant urine samples using high-performance liquid chromatography with inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Total arsenic exposure (tAs) was summarized as Σ(iAs, MMA, DMA) and log2-transformed. Fecal microbial DNA underwent metagenomic sequencing and the relative abundance of bacterial gene pathways were grouped as KEGG Orthologies (KOs) using BioBakery algorithms. Arsenic metabolism KOs with >80% prevalence were log2-transformed and modeled continuously using linear regression, those with <10% were not evaluated and those with 10-80% prevalence were analyzed dichotomously (detect/non-detect) using logistic regression. In the first set of models, tAs was regressed against KO relative abundance or detection adjusting for age at sample collection and child's sex. Effect modification by delivery mode was assessed in stratified models. In the second set of models, the association between the relative abundance/detection of the KOs and arsenic speciation (%iAs, %MMA, %DMA) was quantified with linear regression. Urinary tAs was associated with the increased relative abundance/detection odds of several arsenic-related KOs, including K16509, an arsenate reductase transcriptional regulator, with stronger associations among six-week-olds than one-year-olds. K16509 was also associated with decreased %MMA and increased %DMA at six weeks and one year. Notably, many associations were stronger among operatively-delivered than vaginally-delivered infants. Our findings suggest associations between arsenic-metabolizing bacteria in the infant gut microbiome and urinary arsenic excretion.

Keywords: Arsenic; Infant; Metagenomics; Microbiome.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Arsenic* / analysis
  • Arsenicals* / analysis
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Birth Cohort
  • Cacodylic Acid / urine
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies


  • Arsenicals
  • Cacodylic Acid
  • Arsenic