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High-throughput 16S rRNA gene sequencing reveals alterations of intestinal microbiota in myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome patients

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By Marc Frémont et al. • • July 12, 2013

Editor's Comment: High Throughput Analysis (HTA) is a high-speed data processing technique that allows a researcher to quickly conduct millions of chemical, genetic, or pharmacological tests on biological material (100 million reactions in 10 hours). Through HTA a researcher can rapidly identify active compounds, antibodies, or genes which affect a particular biomolecular pathway. The process has been recommended for research on IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) as a means of identifying possible immunological components of the disease.

Note: The full text of this study can be accessed here.

By Marc Frémont et al.


Human intestinal microbiota plays an important role in the maintenance of host health by providing energy, nutrients, and immunological protection. Intestinal dysfunction is a frequent complaint in myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) patients, and previous reports suggest that dysbiosis, i.e. the overgrowth of abnormal populations of bacteria in the gut, is linked to the pathogenesis of the disease.

We used high-throughput 16S rRNA gene sequencing to investigate the presence of specific alterations in the gut microbiota of ME/CFS patients from Belgium and Norway. 43 ME/CFS patients and 36 healthy controls were included in the study. Bacterial DNA was extracted from stool samples, PCR amplification was performed on 16S rRNA gene regions, and PCR amplicons were sequenced using Roche FLX 454 sequencer.

The composition of the gut microbiota was found to differ between Belgian controls and Norwegian controls: Norwegians showed higher percentages of specific Firmicutes populations (Roseburia, Holdemania) and lower proportions of most Bacteroidetes genera. A highly significant separation could be achieved between Norwegian controls and Norwegian patients: patients presented increased proportions of Lactonifactor and Alistipes, as well as a decrease in several Firmicutes populations. In Belgian subjects the patient/control separation was less pronounced, however some abnormalities observed in Norwegian patients were also found in Belgian patients.

These results show that intestinal microbiota is altered in ME/CFS. High-throughput sequencing is a useful tool to diagnose dysbiosis in patients and could help designing treatments based on gut microbiota modulation (antibiotics, pre and probiotics supplementation).

Source: Anaerobe,  available online 18 June 2013.  Marc Frémont, Danny Coomans, Sebastien Massart, Kenny De Meirleir.

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