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Lactulose drives a reversible reduction and qualitative modulation of the faecal microbiota diversity in healthy dogs

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Original languageEnglish
Article number13350
JournalScientific Reports
Early online date16 Sep 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Sep 2019


Hepatic encephalopathy is a frequent and debilitating complication of liver disorders. Lactulose is an established and reasonably effective treatment, yet with incompletely understood mechanisms of action. The aims of this study were to examine how the faecal microbiota composition changed before,
during and after lactulose treatment in a large animal model. Healthy, privately owned dogs (n = 18) completed a prospective cohort study. Faecal samples were collected weekly, while the subjects were either on their usual diet (week 1), or a standardised diet (weeks 2–9), with added oral lactulose in weeks
6–7. DNA extraction and 16S rRNA gene sequencing were undertaken. Faecal samples from week 7 had a significantly lower microbiota richness/diversity, based on observed operational taxonomic units, Shannon/Chao1 indexes and Pielou’s Evenness. Beta diversity based on UniFrac distances was significantly different in week 7 compared to weeks 1, 5 and 9. At the phylum level, week 7 was associated with a significant increase of Firmicutes and Actinobacteria, and a decrease of Bacteroidetes and Fusobacteria, when compared to weeks 5 and 9. In summary, we have shown that lactulose induces a reversible qualitative and quantitative change of the faecal microbiota, which may explain its clinical
efficacy in the management of hepatic encephalopathy.

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