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J Hepatol. 2000 Jul;33(1):9-18.

Amplification and sequence analysis of partial bacterial 16S ribosomal RNA gene in gallbladder bile from patients with primary biliary cirrhosis.

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  • 1Second Department of Pathology, Kanazawa University School of Medicine, Japan.



The etiopathogenesis of bile duct lesion in primary biliary cirrhosis is unknown, though the participation of bacteria and/or their components and products is suspected. In this study, we tried to detect and identify bacteria in the bile of patients with primary biliary cirrhosis by polymerase chain reaction using universal bacterial primers of the 16S ribosomal RNA gene.


Gallbladder bile samples from 15 patients with primary biliary cirrhosis, 5 with primary sclerosing cholangitis, 5 with hepatitis C virus-related liver cirrhosis, 11 with cholecystolithiasis, and from 12 normal adult gallbladders were used. In addition to the culture study, partial bacterial 16S ribosomal RNA gene was amplified by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) taking advantage of universal primers that can amplify the gene of almost all bacterial species, and the amplicons were cloned and sequenced. Sequence homology with specific bacterial species was analyzed by database research. Bacterial contamination at every step of the bile sampling, DNA extraction and PCR study was avoided. Furthermore, to confirm whether bacterial DNA is detectable in liver explants, the same analysis was performed using 10 liver explants of patients with primary biliary cirrhosis.


In primary biliary cirrhosis, 75% (p<0.0001) of 100 clones were identified as so-called gram-positive cocci while these cocci were positive in only 5% in cholecystolithiasis (p<0.0001). In cholecystolithiasis gram-negative rods were predominant instead. One bacterial species detected in a normal adult was not related to those detected in primary biliary cirrhosis and cholecystolithiasis patients. No bacterial DNA was detected by PCR amplification in 10 liver explants of patients with primary biliary cirrhosis.


The present results raise several possible roles of gram-positive bacteria in bile in the etiopathogenesis of primary biliary cirrhosis. However, these results could also reflect an epiphenomenon due to decreased bile flow in the patients with primary biliary cirrhosis at an advanced stage.

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