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Links between gut microbiome composition and fatty liver disease in a large population sample

By Matti Olavi Ruuskanen, Fredrik Åberg, Ville Männistö, Aki S Havulinna, Guillaume Méric, Yang Liu, Rohit Loomba, Yoshiki Vázquez-Baeza, Anupriya Tripathi, Liisa M. Valsta, Michael Inouye, Pekka Jousilahti, Veikko Salomaa, Mohit Jain, Rob Knight, Leo Lahti, Teemu J Niiranen

Posted 01 Aug 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.07.30.20164962

Fatty liver disease is the most common liver disease in the world. Its connection with the gut microbiome has been known for at least 80 years, but this association remains mostly unstudied in the general population because of underdiagnosis and small sample sizes. To address this knowledge gap, we studied the link between the Fatty Liver Index (FLI), a well-established proxy for fatty liver disease, and gut microbiome composition in a representative, ethnically homogeneous population sample of 6,269 Finnish participants. We based our models on biometric covariates and gut microbiome compositions from shallow metagenome sequencing. Our classification models could discriminate between individuals with a high FLI ([&ge;] 60, indicates likely liver steatosis) and low FLI (< 60) in internal cross-region validation, consisting of 30% of the data not used in model training, with an average AUC of 0.75 and AUPRC of 0.56 (baseline at 0.30). In addition to age and sex, our models included differences in 11 microbial groups from class Clostridia, mostly belonging to orders Lachnospirales and Oscillospirales. Our models were also predictive of the high FLI group in a different Finnish cohort, consisting of 258 participants, with an average AUC of 0.77 and AUPRC of 0.51 (baseline at 0.21). Pathway analysis of representative genomes of the positively FLI-associated taxa in (NCBI) Clostridium subclusters IV and XIVa indicated the presence of e.g., ethanol fermentation pathways. These results support several findings from smaller case-control studies, such as the role of endogenous ethanol producers in the development of fatty liver.

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