At the Intersection of Gut Microbiome and Stroke: A Systematic Review of the Literature

Vishakha Sharma, Vaibhav Sharma, Shima Shahjouei, Jiang Li, Durgesh Chaudhary, Ayesha Khan, Donna M. Wolk, Ramin Zand, Vida Abedi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: Ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke are associated with a high rate of long-term disability and death. Recent investigations focus efforts to better understand how alterations in gut microbiota composition influence clinical outcomes. A key metabolite, trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), is linked to multiple inflammatory, vascular, and oxidative pathways. The current biochemical underpinnings of microbial effects on stroke remain largely understudied. The goal of our study is to explore the current literature to explain the interactions between the human gut microbiome and stroke progression, recovery, and outcome. We also provide a descriptive review of TMAO. Methods: A systematic literature search of published articles between January 1, 1990, and March 22, 2020, was performed on the PubMed database to identify studies addressing the role of the microbiome and TMAO in the pathogenesis and recovery of acute stroke. Our initial investigation focused on human subject studies and was further expanded to include animal studies. Relevant articles were included, regardless of study design. The analysis included reviewers classifying and presenting selected articles by study design and sample size in a chart format. Results: A total of 222 titles and abstracts were screened. A review of the 68 original human subject articles resulted in the inclusion of 24 studies in this review. To provide further insight into TMAO as a key player, an additional 40 articles were also reviewed and included. Our findings highlighted that alterations in richness and abundance of gut microbes and increased plasma TMAO play an important role in vascular events and outcomes. Our analysis revealed that restoration of a healthy gut, through targeted TMAO-reducing therapies, could provide alternative secondary prevention for at-risk patients. Discussion: Biochemical interactions between the gut microbiome and inflammation, resulting in metabolic derangements, can affect stroke progression and outcomes. Clinical evidence supports the importance of TMAO in modulating underlying stroke risk factors. Lack of standardization and distinct differences in sample sizes among studies are major limitations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number729399
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
StatePublished - Sep 24 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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