Cirrhosis, bile acids and gut microbiota: Unraveling a complex relationship Unraveling a complex relationship: Unraveling a complex relationship

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A picture is now starting to emerge regarding the liver-bile acid-microbiome axis. Increasing levels of the primary bile acid cholic acid (CA) causes a dramatic shift toward the Firmicutes, particularlyClostridiumcluster XIVa and increasing production of the harmful secondary bile acid deoxycholic acid (DCA). During progression of cirrhosis, the microbiome, both through their metabolism, cell wall components (LPS) and translocation lead to inflammation. Inflammation suppresses synthesis of bile acids in the liver leading to a positive-feedback mechanism. Decrease in bile acids entering the intestines appears to favor overgrowth of pathogenic and pro-inflammatory members of the microbiome includingPorphyromonadaceaeandEnterobacteriaceae.Decreasing bile acid concentration in the colon in cirrhosis is also associated with decreases inClostridiumcluster XIVa, which includes bile acid 7α-dehydroxylating bacteria which produce DCA. Rifaximin treatment appears to act by suppressing DCA production, reducing endotoxemia and harmful metabolites without significantly altering microbiome structure. Taken together, the bile acid pool size and composition appear to be a major regulator of microbiome structure, which in turn appears to be an important regulator of bile acid pool size and composition. The balance between this equilibrium is critical for human health and disease.

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