Background In recent years, many studies have demonstrated an important role of gut microbiota in the development of various illnesses including autoimmune diseases. A number of evidence have also been found that alterations of gut microbiota affect the host immune system, resulting in changes in autoimmunity, which contributes significantly to the development of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Therefore, we aimed to elucidate discover the gut microbiotas influential to SLE and investigate their association with disease activities.
Methods Fecal samples were provided in the same protocol from 38 patients with SLE in Ajou Lupus Cohort and 52 age and sex-matched healthy controls (HCs). The components of the gut microbiota in feces were investigated via 16S rRNA next-generation sequencing, and alpha and beta diversities were evaluated. Clinical, laboratory, and medication data of SLE patients were obtained through medical records, and the correlation between disease activity and gut microbiota was also analyzed.
Results The gut microbiota of SLE group exhibited a significant decrease in species richness in the beta diversity analysis by NMDS plots compared to controls. Taxonomic composition differences between the two groups were also found at phylum, genus, species levels. At the species level, the relative abundance of 7 kind of bacteria was significantly higher and another 7 bacterial taxa were significantly lower in the SLE group compared with HCs, suggesting that reduction in Faecalibacterium prausnitzii and Prevotella copri (p=0.001 and p=0.001, respectively) played an important role in SLE. In clinical correlation analysis, there was a significant positive correlation between complement 3/4 and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii (r=0.44 and r=0.49, respectively), and total lymphocytes and Prevotella copri (r=0.45).
Conclusions The composition of gut microbiota was different between SLE patients and HCs in Korean population. Among them, Faecalibacterium prausnitzii and Prevotella copri, which are significantly reduced in SLE patients, are expected to provide potential targets for new treatment.
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