Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation is a potential cure for certain life-threatening malignant and nonmalignant diseases. However, experimental and clinical studies have demonstrated that pre-transplant myeloablative conditioning damages the gut leading to translocation of intestinal bacteria and the development of acute graft vs. host disease (aGVHD). The overall objective of this study was to determine whether administration of broad spectrum antibiotics (Abx) affects the onset and/or severity of aGVHD in lymphopenic mice that were
notsubjected to toxic, pre-transplant conditioning. Results
We found that treatment of NK cell-depleted recombination activating gene-1-deficient (-NK/RAG) recipients with an Abx cocktail containing vancomycin and neomycin for 7 days prior to and 4 weeks following adoptive transfer of allogeneic CD4+ T cells, exacerbated the development of aGVHD-induced BM failure and spleen damage when compared to untreated–NK/RAG recipients engrafted with syngeneic or allogeneic T cells. Abx-treated mice exhibited severe anemia and monocytopenia as well as marked reductions in BM- and spleen-residing immune cells. Blinded histopathological analysis confirmed that Abx-treated mice engrafted with allogeneic T cells suffered significantly more damage to the BM and spleen than did untreated mice engrafted with allogeneic T cells. Abx-induced exacerbation of BM and spleen damage correlated with a dramatic reduction in fecal bacterial diversity, marked loss of anaerobic bacteria and remarkable expansion of potentially pathogenic bacteria.
We conclude that continuous Abx treatment may aggravate aGVHD-induced tissue damage by reducing short chain fatty acid-producing anaerobes (e.g.
Clostridium, Blautia) and/or by promoting the expansion of pathobionts (e.g. Akkermansia) and opportunistic pathogens ( Cronobacter).