Expansion of Opportunistic Enteric Fungal Pathogens and Occurrence of Gut Inflammation in Human Liver Echinococcosis

Microbiol Spectr. 2022 Sep 13:e0145322. doi: 10.1128/spectrum.01453-22. Online ahead of print.


Increasing evidence shows that the gut fungal mycobiota is implicated in human disease. However, its relationship with chronic helminth infections, which cause immunosuppression and affect over 1 billion people worldwide, remains unexplored. In this study, we investigated the gut mycobiome and its associations with gut homeostasis in a severe helminth disease worldwide: liver echinococcosis. Fecal samples from 63 patients and 42 healthy controls were collected to characterize the fungal signatures using ITS1 sequencing, QIIME pipeline, and machine learning analysis. The levels of fecal calprotectin and serological anti-Saccharomyces cerevisiae antibodies (ASCA) in these subjects were experimentally measured. We found that fungal microbiota was significantly skewed in disease, with an overrepresentation of Aspergillus, Candida, Geotrichum, Kazachstania, and Penicillium and a decrease of Fusarium. Machine learning analysis revealed that the altered fungal features could efficiently predict infection with high sensitivity and specificity (area under the curve [AUC] = 0.93). The dysbiosis was characterized by expansions of multiple opportunistic pathogens (Aspergillus spp. and Candida spp.). Clinical association analysis revealed that host immunity might link to the expansions of the invasive fungi. Accompanying the opportunistic pathogen expansion, the levels of fungi-associated fecal calprotectin and serological ASCA in the patients were elevated, suggesting that gut inflammation and microbiota translocation occurred in this generally assumed extraintestinal disease. This study highlights enteric fungal pathogen expansions and increased levels of markers for fungi-associated mucosal inflammation and intestinal permeability as hallmarks of liver echinococcosis. IMPORTANCE Helminth infection affects over 1 billion people worldwide. However, its relationship with the gut mycobiome remains unknown. Among the most prevalent helminth diseases, human hydatid disease (echinococcosis) is highlighted as one of the most important (second/third for alveolar/cystic echinococcosis) foodborne parasitic diseases at the global level. Herein, we investigated the mycobiome and gut homeostasis (i.e., inflammation and permeability) in human echinococcosis. Our results revealed that fungal dysbiosis with an expansion of opportunistic pathogens and increased levels of fecal calprotectin and serum ASCA are hallmarks of human liver echinococcosis. Host immunity is associated with enteric fungal expansions. These findings suggest that an extraintestinal helminth infection is able to alter gut fungal microbiota and impair gut homeostasis, which resembles concomitant gut symptoms in inflammatory gut-related diseases (e.g., AIDS). In clinical practice, physicians need to take cautious medical consideration of gut health for nonintestinal helminth diseases.

PMID:36098525 | DOI:10.1128/spectrum.01453-22

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