Altered Gut Microbiome Composition and Function Are Associated With Gut Barrier Dysfunction in Healthy Relatives of Patients With Crohn’s Disease

Background & Aims

The gut microbiome has been suggested to play a role in gut barrier hemostasis, but data are scarce and limited to animal studies. We therefore aimed to assess whether alterations in gut microbial composition and functional pathways are associated with gut barrier function in a cohort of healthy first-degree relatives of patients with Crohn’s disease.


We used the Crohn’s and Colitis Canada Genetic Environmental Microbial (CCC-GEM) cohort of healthy first-degree relatives of patients with Crohn’s disease. Gut barrier function was assessed using the urinary fractional excretion of lactulose-to-mannitol ratio (LMR). Microbiome composition was assessed by sequencing fecal 16S ribosomal RNA. The cohort was divided into a discovery cohort (n = 2472) and a validation cohort (n = 655). A regression model was used to assess microbial associations with the LMR. A random forest classifier algorithm was performed to assess microbial community contribution to barrier function.


Individuals with impaired barrier function (LMR >0.025) had reduced alpha-diversity (Chao1 index, P = 4.0e−4) and altered beta-diversity (Bray-Curtis dissimilarity index, R2 = 0.001, P = 1.0e−3) compared with individuals with an LMR ≤0.025. When taxa were assessed individually, we identified 8 genera and 52 microbial pathways associated with an LMR >0.025 (q < 0.05). Four genera (decreased prevalence of AdlercreutziaClostridia UCG 014, and Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and increased abundance of Colidextribacter) and 8 pathways (including decreased biosynthesis of glutamate, tryptophan, and threonine) were replicated in the validation cohort. The random forest approach revealed that the bacterial community is associated with gut barrier function (area under the curve, 0.63; P = 1.4e−6).


The gut microbiome community and pathways are associated with changes in gut barrier function. These findings may identify potential microbial targets to modulate gut barrier.

Lead Researchers

Link to Publication


  1. David Mack

    Senior Scientist, CHEO Research Institute

    View Profile Email