BACKGROUND AND AIMS: The human gastrointestinal tract harbours distinct microbial communities essential for health. Little is known about small intestinal communities, despite the small intestine playing a fundamental role in nutrient absorption and host-microbe immune homeostasis. We aimed to explore the small intestine microbial composition and metabolic potential, in the context of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
METHODS: Metagenomes derived from faecal samples and extensive phenotypes were collected from 57 individuals with an ileostomy or ileoanal pouch, and compared with 1178 general population and 478 IBD faecal metagenomes. Microbiome features were identified using MetaPhAn2 and HUMAnN2, and association analyses were performed using multivariate linear regression.
RESULTS: Small intestinal samples had a significantly lower bacterial diversity, compared with the general population and, to a lesser extent, IBD samples. Comparing bacterial composition, small intestinal samples clustered furthest from general population samples and closest to IBD samples with intestinal resections. Veillonella atypica, Streptococcus salivarius and Actinomyces graevenitzii were among the species significantly enriched in the small intestine. Predicted metabolic pathways in the small intestine are predominantly involved in simple carbohydrate and energy metabolism, but also suggest a higher proinflammatory potential.
CONCLUSION: We described the bacterial composition and metabolic potential of the small intestinal microbiota. The colonic microbiome of IBD patients, particularly with intestinal resections, showed resemblance to that of the small intestine. Moreover, several features characterising the small intestinal microbiome have been previously associated with IBD. These results highlight the importance of studying the small intestinal microbiota to gain new insight into disease pathogenesis.