Impact of Anthelmintic Treatment on Human Gut Microbiota Based on Cross-Sectional and Pre- and Postdeworming Comparisons in Western Kenya
ABSTRACT Murine studies suggest that the presence of some species of intestinal helminths is associated with changes in host microbiota composition and diversity. However, studies in humans have produced varied conclusions, and the impact appears to vary widely depending on the helminth species present. To demonstrate how molecular approaches to the human gut microbiome can provide insights into the complex interplay among disparate organisms, DNA was extracted from cryopreserved stools collected from residents of 5 rural Kenyan villages prior to and 3 weeks and 3 months following albendazole (ALB) therapy. Samples were analyzed by quantitative PCR (qPCR) for the presence of 8 species of intestinal parasites and by MiSeq 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Based on pretreatment results, the presence of neither Ascaris lumbricoides nor Necator americanus infection significantly altered the overall diversity of the microbiota in comparison with age-matched controls. Following ALB therapy and clearance of soil-transmitted helminths (STH), there were significant increases in the proportion of the microbiota made up by Clostridiales (P = 0.0002; average fold change, 0.57) and reductions in the proportion made up by Enterobacteriales (P = 0.0004; average fold change, −0.58). There was a significant posttreatment decrease in Chao1 richness, even among individuals who were uninfected pretreatment, suggesting that antimicrobial effects must be considered in any posttreatment setting. Nevertheless, the helminth-associated changes in Clostridiales and Enterobacteriales suggest that clearance of STH, and of N. americanus in particular, alters the gut microbiota.
IMPORTANCE The gut microbiome is an important factor in human health. It is affected by what we eat, what medicines we take, and what infections we acquire. In turn, it affects the way we absorb nutrients and whether we have excessive intestinal inflammation. Intestinal worms may have an important impact on the composition of the gut microbiome. Without a complete understanding of the impact of mass deworming programs on the microbiome, it is impossible to accurately calculate the cost-effectiveness of such public health interventions and to guard against any possible deleterious side effects. Our research examines this question in a “real-world” setting, using a longitudinal cohort, in which individuals with and without worm infections are treated with deworming medication and followed up at both three weeks and three months posttreatment. We quantify the impact of roundworms and hookworms on gut microbial composition, suggesting that the impact is small, but that treatment of hookworm infection results in significant changes. This work points to the need for follow-up studies to further examine the impact of hookworm on the gut microbiota and determine the health consequences of the observed changes.