Colonic microbiome is altered in alcoholism

Ece A. Mutlu, Patrick M. Gillevet, Huzefa Rangwala, Masoumeh Sikaroodi, Ammar Naqvi, Phillip A. Engen, Mary Kwasny, Cynthia K. Lau, Ali Keshavarzian*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

562 Scopus citations


Several studies indicate the importance of colonic microbiota in metabolic and inflammatory disorders and importance of diet on microbiota composition. The effects of alcohol, one of the prominent components of diet, on colonic bacterial composition is largely unknown. Mounting evidence suggests that gut-derived bacterial endotoxins are cofactors for alcohol-induced tissue injury and organ failure like alcoholic liver disease (ALD) that only occur in a subset of alcoholics. We hypothesized that chronic alcohol consumption results in alterations of the gut microbiome in a subgroup of alcoholics, and this may be responsible for the observed inflammatory state and endotoxemia in alcoholics. Thus we interrogated the mucosa-associated colonic microbiome in 48 alcoholics with and without ALD as well as 18 healthy subjects. Colonic biopsy samples from subjects were analyzed for microbiota composition using length heterogeneity PCR fingerprinting and multitag pyrosequencing. A subgroup of alcoholics have an altered colonic microbiome (dysbiosis). The alcoholics with dysbiosis had lower median abundances of Bacteroidetes and higher ones of Proteobacteria. The observed alterations appear to correlate with high levels of serum endotoxin in a subset of the samples. Network topology analysis indicated that alcohol use is correlated with decreased connectivity of the microbial network, and this alteration is seen even after an extended period of sobriety. We show that the colonic mucosaassociated bacterial microbiome is altered in a subset of alcoholics. The altered microbiota composition is persistent and correlates with endotoxemia in a subgroup of alcoholics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)G966-G978
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2012


  • Alcohol
  • Alcoholic liver disease
  • Colon
  • Colonic microbiota
  • Length heterogeneity polymerase chain reaction
  • Pyrosequencing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Physiology
  • Hepatology


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