The gut microbiome - a collection of bacteria and other microbes in the gut - could be a highly accurate predictor of hospitalisations for patients with cirrhosis, according to scientists, including one of Indian origin.
The research, published in the journal JCI Insight, determined that analysis of microbial DNA and microbial RNA could be used alongside current clinical methods to more accurately predict 90-day hospitalisations.
Microbial DNA analysis identifies live and dead bacterial species, while microbial RNA analysis identifies the most metabolically active microbial species.
"The hospitalisations that take place with cirrhosis are exorbitantly expensive. Anything that helps us predict the likelihood of hospitalisation is better than the status quo," said Jasmohan Bajaj from Virginia Commonwealth University in the US.
The researchers theorised that relative abundances of pathogenic and non-pathogenic bacteria in the gut microbiome would be accurate predictors of hospitalisation because of their link with inflammation, which often leads to infection.
"One of the major sources of inflammation in patients with cirrhosis or individuals who are obese is pathogenic bacteria, so, we began looking at gut microbes," Bajaj said.
"People with cirrhosis who are hospitalised tend to get a very big inflammatory surge in their body because of infections and other organ failures," he said.
The researchers conducted a trial of patients with cirrhosis. They were classified according to cirrhosis-related complications, such as renal dysfunction and infection.
They also were more effective than the standard predictive blood test score alone. The researchers also found that DNA and RNA analysis identified similar beneficial bacteria but differed in the pathogenic bacteria identified in all patient groups tested.