Intestinal microbiome in scleroderma: recent progress

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Purpose of review

Our evolving understanding of how gut microbiota affects immune function and homeostasis has led many investigators to explore the potentially pathologic role of gut microbiota in autoimmune diseases. This review will discuss the rapidly advancing field of microbiome research in systemic sclerosis (SSc), an incurable autoimmune disease with significant gastrointestinal morbidity and mortality.

Recent findings

Recent reports have identified common perturbations in gut microbiota across different SSc cohorts. Compared with healthy controls, patients with SSc have decreased abundance of beneficial commensal genera (e.g. Faecalibacterium, Clostridium and Bacteroides) and increased abundance of pathbiont genera (e.g. Fusobacterium, Prevotella and Erwinia). Certain genera may protect against (e.g. Bacteroides, Clostridium, and Lactobacillus), or conversely exacerbate (e.g. Fusobacterium and Prevotella) gastrointestinal symptoms in SSc. These genera represent potential targets to avert or treat gastrointestinal dysfunction in SSc.


Emerging evidence suggests that alterations in gut microbiota exist in the SSc disease state; however, future basic and clinical studies are needed to ascertain the mechanism by which these alterations perpetuate inflammation and fibrosis in SSc. Therapeutic trials are also needed to investigate whether dietary interventions or fecal transplantation can restore the gut microbial balance and improve health outcomes in SSc.

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