PLOS ONE: Disruption of the Human Gut Microbiota following Norovirus Infection
The gut microbiota, the collection of all bacterial members in the intestinal tract, plays a key role in health. Disruption of the indigenous microbiota by a variety of stressors, including antibiotic therapy and intestinal infections, is associated with multiple health problems. We sought to determine if infection with Norovirus disrupts the gut microbiota. Barcoded pyrosequencing of the 16S rRNA-encoding gene was used to characterize the stool microbiota in Norovirus-infected human patients (n = 38). While the microbiota in most infected patients (n = 31) resembled that seen in uninfected healthy controls, a minority of patients (n = 7) possessed a significantly altered microbiota characterized by reduced relative numbers of Bacteriodetes and a corresponding increase in Proteobacteria. In these patients, the increase in Proteobacteria was due to a single operational taxonomic unit (OTU) of Escherichia coli. We cultured E. coli from Norovirus-infected patients and characterized them using PCR-ribotyping and virulence factor analysis. Multiple ribotypes were encountered, but none possessed typical virulence factors commonly carried by enteropathogenic E. coli strains. Microbiota disruption and elevated Proteobacteria were not significantly correlated to patient age, gender, sampling time following illness onset, or overall gut inflammation. These results demonstrate that some patients have a disrupted microbiota following Norovirus infection, and therefore may be at elevated risk for long-term health complications.