Increased GVHD-related mortality with broad-spectrum antibiotic use after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation in human patients and mice
Bone Marrow Transplantation
Graft vs Host Disease
Intestinal bacteria may modulate the risk of infection and graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo-HSCT). Allo-HSCT recipients often develop neutropenic fever, which is treated with antibiotics that may target anaerobic bacteria in the gut. We retrospectively examined 857 allo-HSCT recipients and found that treatment of neutropenic fever with imipenem-cilastatin and piperacillin-tazobactam antibiotics was associated with increased GVHD-related mortality at 5 years (21.5% for imipenem-cilastatin-treated patients versus 13.1% for untreated patients, P = 0.025; 19.8% for piperacillin-tazobactam-treated patients versus 11.9% for untreated patients, P = 0.007). However, two other antibiotics also used to treat neutropenic fever, aztreonam and cefepime, were not associated with GVHD-related mortality (P = 0.78 and P = 0.98, respectively). Analysis of stool specimens from allo-HSCT recipients showed that piperacillin-tazobactam administration was associated with perturbation of gut microbial composition. Studies in mice demonstrated aggravated GVHD mortality with imipenem-cilastatin or piperacillin-tazobactam compared to aztreonam (P < 0.01 and P < 0.05, respectively). We found pathological evidence for increased GVHD in the colon of imipenem-cilastatin-treated mice (P < 0.05), but no difference in the concentration of short-chain fatty acids or numbers of regulatory T cells. Notably, imipenem-cilastatin treatment of mice with GVHD led to loss of the protective mucus lining of the colon (P < 0.01) and the compromising of intestinal barrier function (P < 0.05). Sequencing of mouse stool specimens showed an increase in Akkermansia muciniphila (P < 0.001), a commensal bacterium with mucus-degrading capabilities, raising the possibility that mucus degradation may contribute to murine GVHD. We demonstrate an underappreciated risk for the treatment of allo-HSCT recipients with antibiotics that may exacerbate GVHD in the colon.