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Dysbiosis of the faecal microbiota in patients with Crohn's disease and their unaffected relatives
  1. Marie Joossens1,
  2. Geert Huys2,3,
  3. Margo Cnockaert2,
  4. Vicky De Preter1,
  5. Kristin Verbeke1,
  6. Paul Rutgeerts1,
  7. Peter Vandamme2,
  8. Severine Vermeire1
  1. 1Department of Gastroenterology, Gastroenterology and Leuven Food Science and Nutrition Centre (LFoRCe), University Hospital Gasthuisberg, Leuven, Belgium
  2. 2Laboratory of Microbiology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
  3. 3BCCM/LMG Bacteria Collection, Faculty of Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
  1. Correspondence to Séverine Vermeire, Department of Gastroenterology, University Hospital Gasthuisberg, Herestraat 49, 3000 Leuven, Belgium; severine.vermeire{at}


Background and aims A general dysbiosis of the intestinal microbiota has been established in patients with Crohn's disease (CD), but a systematic characterisation of this dysbiosis is lacking. Therefore the composition of the predominant faecal microbiota of patients with CD was studied in comparison with the predominant composition in unaffected controls. Whether dysbiosis is present in relatives of patients CD was also examined.

Methods Focusing on families with at least three members affected with CD, faecal samples of 68 patients with CD, 84 of their unaffected relatives and 55 matched controls were subjected to community fingerprinting of the predominant microbiota using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE). To analyse the DGGE profiles, BioNumerics software and non-parametric statistical analyses (SPSS V.17.0) were used. Observed differences in the predominant microbiota were subsequently confirmed and quantified with real-time PCR.

Results Five bacterial species characterised dysbiosis in CD, namely a decrease in Dialister invisus (p=0.04), an uncharacterised species of Clostridium cluster XIVa (p=0.03), Faecalibacterium prausnitzii (p<1.3×10−5) and Bifidobacterium adolescentis (p=5.4×10−6), and an increase in Ruminococcus gnavus (p=2.1×10−7). Unaffected relatives of patients with CD had less Collinsella aerofaciens (p=0.004) and a member of the Escherichia coli–Shigella group (p=0.01) and more Ruminococcus torques (p=0.02) in their predominant microbiota as compared with healthy subjects.

Conclusion Unaffected relatives of patients with CD have a different composition of their microbiota compared with healthy controls. This dysbiosis is not characterised by lack of butyrate producing-bacteria as observed in CD but suggests a role for microorganisms with mucin degradation capacity.

  • Crohn's disease
  • dysbiosis
  • DGGE
  • mucin degradation

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  • Funding The project was funded by the Fund for Scientific Research-Flanders, Belgium (FWO-Vlaanderen), research project G.0455.06N. GH, SV and VDP are postdoctoral fellows of the FWO-Vlaanderen.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the ethics committee of the Catholic University of Leuven.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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