Characterizing the gut microbiome in trauma: Significant changes in microbial diversity occur early after severe injury

Benjamin M. Howard, Lucy Z. Kornblith, Sabrinah A. Christie, Amanda S. Conroy, Mary F. Nelson, Eric M. Campion, Rachael A. Callcut, Carolyn S. Calfee, Brandon J. Lamere, Douglas W. Fadrosh, Susan Lynch, Mitchell Jay Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Background Recent studies have demonstrated the vital influence of commensal microbial communities on human health. The central role of the gut in the response to injury is well described; however, no prior studies have used culture-independent profiling techniques to characterize the gut microbiome after severe trauma. We hypothesized that in critically injured patients, the gut microbiome would undergo significant compositional changes in the first 72 hours after injury. Methods Trauma stool samples were prospectively collected via digital rectal examination at the time of presentation (0 hour). Patients admitted to the intensive care unit (n=12) had additional stool samples collected at 24 hours and/or 72 hours. Uninjured patients served as controls (n=10). DNA was extracted from stool samples and 16S rRNA-targeted PCR amplification was performed; amplicons were sequenced and binned into operational taxonomic units (OTUs; 97% sequence similarity). Diversity was analyzed using principle coordinates analyses, and negative binomial regression was used to determine significantly enriched OTUs. Results Critically injured patients had a median Injury Severity Score of 27 and suffered polytrauma. At baseline (0 hour), there were no detectable differences in gut microbial community diversity between injured and uninjured patients. Injured patients developed changes in gut microbiome composition within 72 hours, characterized by significant alterations in phylogenetic composition and taxon relative abundance. Members of the bacterial orders Bacteroidales, Fusobacteriales and Verrucomicrobiales were depleted during 72 hours, whereas Clostridiales and Enterococcus members enriched significantly. Discussion In this initial study of the gut microbiome after trauma, we demonstrate that significant changes in phylogenetic composition and relative abundance occur in the first 72 hours after injury. This rapid change in intestinal microbiota represents a critical phenomenon that may influence outcomes after severe trauma. A better understanding of the nature of these postinjury changes may lead to the ability to intervene in otherwise pathological clinical trajectories. Level of evidence III Study type Prognostic/epidemiological.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere000108
JournalTrauma Surgery and Acute Care Open
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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