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Ann Hematol. 2019 Jun;98(6):1351-1365. doi: 10.1007/s00277-019-03599-w. Epub 2019 Mar 27.

The oral microbiome of patients undergoing treatment for severe aplastic anemia: a pilot study.

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Clinical Center Nursing Department, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.
Mathematical and Statistical Computing Lab, Center for Information Technology, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.
Clinical Center Nursing Department, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.
Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA, USA.
National Institute of Nursing Research, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.
University of Louisville School of Medicine, Louisville, KY, USA.
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.
Forsyth Institute, Cambridge, MA, USA.
Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Boston, MA, USA.
Ginkgo Bioworks, Boston, MA, USA.


The microbiome, an intriguing component of the human body, composed of trillions of microorganisms, has prompted scientific exploration to identify and understand its function and role in health and disease. As associations between microbiome composition, disease, and symptoms accumulate, the future of medicine hinges upon a comprehensive knowledge of these microorganisms for patient care. The oral microbiome may provide valuable and efficient insight for predicting future changes in disease status, infection, or treatment course. The main aim of this pilot study was to characterize the oral microbiome in patients with severe aplastic anemia (SAA) during their therapeutic course. SAA is a hematologic disease characterized by bone marrow failure which if untreated is fatal. Treatment includes either hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) or immunosuppressive therapy (IST). In this study, we examined the oral microbiome composition of 24 patients admitted to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center for experimental SAA treatment. Tongue brushings were collected to assess the effects of treatment on the oral microbiome. Twenty patients received standard IST (equine antithymocyte globulin and cyclosporine) plus eltrombopag. Four patients underwent HSCT. Oral specimens were obtained at three time points during treatment and clinical follow-up. Using a novel approach to 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis encompassing seven hypervariable regions, results demonstrated a predictable decrease in microbial diversity over time among the transplant patients. Linear discriminant analysis or LefSe reported a total of 14 statistically significant taxa (p < 0.05) across time points in the HSCT patients. One-way plots of relative abundance for two bacterial species (Haemophilus parainfluenzae and Rothia mucilaginosa) in the HSCT group, show the differences in abundance between time points. Only one bacterial species (Prevotella histicola) was noted in the IST group with a p value of 0.065. The patients receiving immunosuppressive therapy did not exhibit a clear change in diversity over time; however, patient-specific changes were noted. In addition, we compared our findings to tongue dorsum samples from healthy participants in the Human Microbiome Project (HMP) database and found among HSCT patients, approximately 35% of bacterial identifiers (N = 229) were unique to this study population and were not present in tongue dorsum specimens obtained from the HMP. Among IST-treated patients, 45% (N = 351) were unique to these patients and not identified by the HMP. Although antibiotic use may have likely influenced bacterial composition and diversity, some literature suggests a decreased impact of antimicrobials on the oral microbiome as compared to their effect on the gut microbiome. Future studies with larger sample sizes that focus on the oral microbiome and the effects of antibiotics in an immunosuppressed patient population may help establish these potential associations.


Immunosuppression and hematopoietic stem cell transplant; Oral microbiome; Tongue brushings

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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