Healthy Cotwins Share Gut Microbiome Signatures With Their Inflammatory Bowel Disease Twins and Unrelated Patients

Dutch TWIN-IBD consortium and the Dutch Initiative on Crohn and Colitis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND & AIMS: It is currently unclear whether reported changes in the gut microbiome are cause or consequence of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Therefore, we studied the gut microbiome of IBD-discordant and -concordant twin pairs, which offers the unique opportunity to assess individuals at increased risk of developing IBD, namely healthy cotwins from IBD-discordant twin pairs. METHODS: Fecal samples were obtained from 99 twins (belonging to 51 twin pairs), 495 healthy age-, sex-, and body mass index-matched controls, and 99 unrelated patients with IBD. Whole-genome metagenomic shotgun sequencing was performed. Taxonomic and functional (pathways) composition was compared among healthy cotwins, IBD-twins, unrelated patients with IBD, and healthy controls with multivariable (ie, adjusted for potential confounding) generalized linear models. RESULTS: No significant differences were observed in the relative abundance of species and pathways between healthy cotwins and their IBD-twins (false discovery rate <0.10). Compared with healthy controls, 13, 19, and 18 species, and 78, 105, and 153 pathways were found to be differentially abundant in healthy cotwins, IBD-twins, and unrelated patients with IBD, respectively (false discovery rate <0.10). Of these, 8 (42.1%) of 19 and 1 (5.6%) of 18 species, and 37 (35.2%) of 105 and 30 (19.6%) of 153 pathways overlapped between healthy cotwins and IBD-twins, and healthy cotwins and unrelated patients with IBD, respectively. Many of the shared species and pathways have previously been associated with IBD. The shared pathways include potentially inflammation-related pathways, for example, an increase in propionate degradation and L-arginine degradation pathways. CONCLUSIONS: The gut microbiome of healthy cotwins from IBD-discordant twin pairs displays IBD-like signatures. These IBD-like microbiome signatures might precede the onset of IBD. However, longitudinal follow-up studies are needed to infer a causal relationship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1970-1985
Number of pages16
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2021
Externally publishedYes

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