The gut microbiota is increasingly recognized as an important modulator of human health. As such, there is a growing need to identify effective means of selectively modifying gut microbial communities. Bacteriophages, which were briefly utilized as clinical antimicrobials in the early 20th century, present an opportunity to selectively reduce populations of undesirable microorganisms. However, whether intentional consumption of specific bacteriophages affects overall gut ecology is not yet known. Using a commercial cocktail of Escherichia coli
-targeting bacteriophages, we examined their effects on gut microbiota and markers of intestinal and systemic inflammation in a healthy human population. In a double-blinded, placebo-controlled crossover trial, normal to overweight adults consumed bacteriophages for 28 days. Stool and blood samples were collected and used to examine inflammatory markers, lipid metabolism, and gut microbiota. Reductions in fecal E. coli
loads were observed with phage consumption. However, there were no significant changes to alpha and beta diversity parameters, suggesting that consumed phages did not globally disrupt the microbiota. However, specific populations were altered in response to treatment, including increases in members of the butyrate-producing genera Eubacterium
and a decreased proportion of taxa most closely related to Clostridium perfringens
. Short-chain fatty acid production, inflammatory markers, and lipid metabolism were largely unaltered, but there was a small but significant decrease in circulating interleukin-4 (Il-4). Together, these data demonstrate the potential of bacteriophages to selectively reduce target organisms without global disruption of the gut community.
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