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GI highlights from the literature
  1. Mairi H McLean, Education editor
  1. School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition, Aberdeen University, Aberdeen, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Mairi H McLean, School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition, Aberdeen University, Aberdeen AB24 3FX, UK; m.h.mclean{at}

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Basic science

Microbiota in colorectal cancer

Wirbel J, Pyl PT, Kartal E, et al. Meta-analysis of fecal metagenomes reveals global microbial signatures that are specific for colorectal cancer. Nature Medicine 2019 25(4):679–689.

Metagenomic analyses of gut microbial communities are providing a map of microbiome alterations in various complex diseases including colorectal cancer (CRC). However, inconsistent findings are reported, often attributed to biological, geographical, dietary and technical confounders. While many studies have investigated microbiota changes in CRC, the identification of biomarkers across geographically distinct populations has not been sufficiently addressed. The recent study by Wirbel and colleagues presents a meta-analysis of eight CRC studies, including faecal metagenomic data from 386 cancer cases and 392 tumour-free controls. Studies were included from the following locations: Europe (France, Austria, Germany and Italy), USA, China and Japan. A set of 29 core bacterial species were identified as significantly enriched in CRC metagenomes. These include previously identified CRC candidates such as Fusobacterium, Parvimonas and Porphyromonas, but also a number of Clostridiales species, previously not associated with CRC. Co-occurrence analysis of the core set indicated that Porphyromonas species were most strongly associated with rectal tumours, while Clostridiales species were most prevalent in female patients with CRC. Functional analysis indicated a shift from carbohydrate metabolism in healthy metagenomes to increased protein and mucin catabolism in CRC metagenomes, as well as enhanced bile acid production. These findings (along with a second publication from the same team in the same journal issue) highlight that globally generalisable microbiota signatures are potentially feasible and may aid CRC diagnostics.

Fat metabolism in alcohol-induced liver disease

Shen H, Jiang L, Lin JD, et al. Brown fat activation mitigates alcohol-induced liver steatosis and injury in mice. Journal of Clinical Investigation. 2019 Mar 19;130. pii: 1 24 376. doi: 10.1172/JCI124376.

Alcohol-related steatosis is easily acquired and highly prevalent in hazardous drinkers. Alcohol causes steatosis through direct and …

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  • Competing interests None declared.

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