Progressive shifts in the gut microbiome reflect prediabetes and diabetes development in a treatment-naive Mexican cohort

July 22, 2019

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is a global epidemic that affects more than 8% of the world’s population and is a leading cause of death in Mexico. Diet and lifestyle are known to contribute to the onset of T2D. However, the role of the gut microbiome in T2D progression remains uncertain. Associations between microbiome composition and diabetes are confounded by medication use, diet, and obesity. Here we present data on a treatment-naive cohort of 405 Mexican individuals across varying stages of T2D severity. Associations between gut bacteria and more than 200 clinical variables revealed a defined set of bacterial genera that were consistent biomarkers of T2D prevalence and risk. Specifically, gradual increases in blood glucose levels, beta cell dysfunction, and the accumulation of measured T2D risk factors was correlated with the relative abundances of four bacterial genera. In a cohort of 25 individuals, T2D treatment - predominantly metformin - reliably returned the microbiome to the normoglycemic community state. Deep clinical characterization allowed us to broadly control for confounding variables, indicating that these microbiome patterns were independent of common T2D comorbidities, like obesity or cardiovascular disease. Thus, our work provides the first solid evidence for a direct link between the gut microbiome and T2D in a critically high-risk population. Whether or not these T2D-associated changes in the gut contribute to the etiology of T2D or its comorbidities remains to be seen.