Dysbiosis of a microbiota-immune metasystem in critical illness is associated with nosocomial infections

Nat Med. 2023 Apr;29(4):1017-1027. doi: 10.1038/s41591-023-02243-5. Epub 2023 Mar 9.


Critically ill patients in intensive care units experience profound alterations of their gut microbiota that have been linked to a high risk of hospital-acquired (nosocomial) infections and adverse outcomes through unclear mechanisms. Abundant mouse and limited human data suggest that the gut microbiota can contribute to maintenance of systemic immune homeostasis, and that intestinal dysbiosis may lead to defects in immune defense against infections. Here we use integrated systems-level analyses of fecal microbiota dynamics in rectal swabs and single-cell profiling of systemic immune and inflammatory responses in a prospective longitudinal cohort study of critically ill patients to show that the gut microbiota and systemic immunity function as an integrated metasystem, where intestinal dysbiosis is coupled to impaired host defense and increased frequency of nosocomial infections. Longitudinal microbiota analysis by 16s rRNA gene sequencing of rectal swabs and single-cell profiling of blood using mass cytometry revealed that microbiota and immune dynamics during acute critical illness were highly interconnected and dominated by Enterobacteriaceae enrichment, dysregulated myeloid cell responses and amplified systemic inflammation, with a lesser impact on adaptive mechanisms of host defense. Intestinal Enterobacteriaceae enrichment was coupled with impaired innate antimicrobial effector responses, including hypofunctional and immature neutrophils and was associated with an increased risk of infections by various bacterial and fungal pathogens. Collectively, our findings suggest that dysbiosis of an interconnected metasystem between the gut microbiota and systemic immune response may drive impaired host defense and susceptibility to nosocomial infections in critical illness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Critical Illness
  • Cross Infection*
  • Dysbiosis / microbiology
  • Enterobacteriaceae
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mice
  • Microbiota* / genetics
  • Prospective Studies
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S

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