Conference Coverage

VIDEO: Characteristic flora define intestinal microbiome in scleroderma



– Scleroderma patients appear to have a characteristic microbiome composition, which is consistent in samples taken around the world.

These patients showed decreased populations of beneficial commensal flora and increased populations of proinflammatory species, Elizabeth Volkmann, MD, said at the annual Congress of Clinical Rheumatology.

Furthermore, specific species seem to correlate with specific gastrointestinal symptoms, said Dr. Volkmann of the University of California, Los Angeles. “Features also unexpectedly overlap with the consortium typical for Crohn’s disease, a disease with both inflammatory and fibrosing phenotype,” she said.

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Her recent exploration of this topic included 17 patients with scleroderma and GI symptoms and 17 matched healthy controls (BMJ Open Gastro. 2017;3:e000134). Everyone underwent a bowel prep and colonoscopy, during which cecum and sigmoid mucosal lavage samples were obtained. Those samples underwent RNA sequencing.

In addition to quantifying the species present, Dr. Volkmann sought to associate populations with symptoms. The primary assessment tool was the GIT 2.0, which measures distention/bloating; diarrhea; fecal soilage; constipation; emotional well-being; and social functioning.

Similar to the findings in inflammatory disease states, scleroderma patients had decreased levels of commensal Clostridia, a class of Firmicutes that is established in early infancy and very important in the maintenance of gut homeostasis. They also showed a decreased proportion of Faecalibacterium, a genus with anti-inflammatory activity; this finding has been observed in patients with Crohn’s disease.

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