Fecal Microbiota Signatures Are Associated with Response to Ustekinumab Therapy among Crohn's Disease Patients

Doherty MK1, Ding T1, Koumpouras C1, Telesco SE2, Monast C2, Das A2, Brodmerkel C2, Schloss PD3. MBio. 2018 Mar 13;9(2). pii: e02120-17. doi: 10.1128/mBio.02120-17.

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1 Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.

2 Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, Spring House, Pennsylvania, USA.

3 Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA pschloss@umich.edu.


The fecal microbiota is a rich source of biomarkers that have previously been shown to be predictive of numerous disease states. Less well studied is the effect of immunomodulatory therapy on the microbiota and its role in response to therapy. This study explored associations between the fecal microbiota and therapeutic response of Crohn's disease (CD) patients treated with ustekinumab (UST; Stelara) in the phase 2 CERTIFI study. Using stool samples collected over the course of 22 weeks, the composition of these subjects' fecal bacterial communities was characterized by sequencing the 16S rRNA gene. Subjects in remission could be distinguished from those with active disease 6 weeks after treatment using random forest models trained on subjects' baseline microbiota and clinical data (area under the curve [AUC] of 0.844, specificity of 0.831, sensitivity of 0.774). The most predictive operational taxonomic units (OTUs) that were ubiquitous among subjects were affiliated with Faecalibacterium and Escherichia or Shigella The median baseline community diversity in subjects in remission 6 weeks after treatment was 1.7 times higher than that in treated subjects with active disease (P = 0.020). Their baseline community structures were also significantly different (P = 0.017). Two OTUs affiliated with Faecalibacterium (P = 0.003) and Bacteroides (P = 0.022) were significantly more abundant at baseline in subjects who were in remission 6 weeks after treatment than those with active CD. The microbiota diversity of UST-treated clinical responders increased over the 22 weeks of the study, in contrast to nonresponsive subjects (P = 0.012). The observed baseline differences in fecal microbiota and changes due to therapeutic response support the potential for the microbiota as a response biomarker.IMPORTANCE CD is a global health concern, with increasing incidence and prevalence, causing large economic and health care impacts. Finding prognostic biomarkers that give clinicians the ability to identify patients more likely to respond to CD treatment at diagnosis will reduce the time subjects receive drugs that are unlikely to be beneficial. OTUs associated with remission after treatment induction, especially Faecalibacterium, could be biomarkers for successful UST treatment of anti-tumor necrosis factor alpha (anti-TNF-α) refractory CD patients. More broadly, these results suggest that the fecal microbiota could be a useful noninvasive biomarker for directing or monitoring the treatment of gastrointestinal diseases.

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