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Original research
No distinct microbiome signature of irritable bowel syndrome found in a Swedish random population
  1. Luisa W Hugerth1,
  2. Anna Andreasson2,3,4,
  3. Nicholas J Talley5,
  4. Anna M Forsberg3,
  5. Lars Kjellström6,
  6. Peter Thelin Schmidt3,
  7. Lars Agreus7,
  8. Lars Engstrand1,8
  1. 1 Center for Translational Microbiome Research, CTMR, Department of Microbiology, Tumour and Cell Biology (MTC), Karolinska Institutet, Science for Life Laboratory, Solna, Sweden
  2. 2 Stress Research Institute, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
  3. 3 Department of Medicine, Karolinska University Hospital, Solna, Sweden
  4. 4 Department of Psychology, Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  5. 5 Health, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales, Australia
  6. 6 Gastromottagning City, Stockholm, Sweden
  7. 7 Center for Family and Community Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
  8. 8 Bacteriology, Swedish Institute for Communicable Disease Control, Stockholm, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to Professor Lars Engstrand, Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology, Karolinska Institutet, 171 77 Solna, Sweden; lars.engstrand{at}


Objective The ethiopathogenesis of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is unknown. While a link to the gut microbiome is postulated, the heterogeneity of the healthy gut makes it difficult to draw definitive conclusions. We aimed to describe the faecal and mucosa-associated microbiome (MAM) and health correlates on a community cohort of healthy and IBS individuals with no colonoscopic findings.

Design The PopCol study recruited a random sample of 3556 adults; 745 underwent colonoscopy. IBS was defined by Rome IV criteria and organic disease excluded. 16S rRNA gene sequencing was conducted on sigmoid biopsy samples from 376 representative individuals (63 IBS cases) and faecal samples from 185 individuals (32 IBS cases).

Results While sigmoid MAM was dominated by Lachnospiraceae, faeces presented a higher relative abundance of Ruminococcaceae. Microbial richness in MAM was linearly correlated to that in faeces from the same individual (R²=0.255, p<3E-11) as was diversity (R²=0.06, p=0.0022). MAM diversity decreased with increasing body mass index (BMI; Pearson’s r=−0.1, p=0.08) and poorer self-rated health (r=−0.15, p=0.007), but no other health correlates. Faecal microbiome diversity was correlated to stool consistency (r=−0.16, p=0.043). Several taxonomic groups were correlated to age, BMI, depression and self-reported health, including Coprococcus catus associated with lower levels of depression (r=−0.003, p=0.00017). The degree of heterogeneity observed between IBS patients is higher than that observed between healthy individuals.

Conclusions No distinct microbial signature was observed in IBS. Individuals presenting with low self-rated health or high BMI have lower gut microbiome richness.

  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • colonic microflora
  • colonic bacteria
  • colonoscopy
  • environmental health

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  • Contributors Study design and data collection: LK, LA, LE; data analysis: LWH, AA, NJT; reporting of the findings: LWH, AA, NJT, AMF, PTS, LA, LE.

  • Funding This study was financed by Ferring Pharmaceuticals and the Söderbergs Foundation.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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

  • Data availability statement Data are available in a public, open access repository. The raw sequencing data is freely available from the European Nucleotide Archive as study PRJEB31817, samples ERS3379832-ERS3380418, available at

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