The fecal mycobiome in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.


Münevver Demir, Sonja Lang, Phillipp Hartmann, Yi Duan, Anna Martin, Yukiko Miyamoto, Marina Bondareva, Xinlian Zhang, Yanhan Wang, Philipp Kasper, Corinna Bang, Christoph Roderburg, Frank Tacke, Hans-Michael Steffen, Tobias Goeser, Andrey Kruglov, Lars Eckmann, Peter Stärkel, Derrick E Fouts, Bernd Schnabl

Year of publication










Impact factor



Background & aims

Studies investigating the gut-liver axis have largely focused on bacteria, whereas little is known about commensal fungi. We characterized fecal fungi in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and investigated their role in a fecal microbiome-humanized mouse model of Western diet-induced steatohepatitis.


We performed fungal internal transcribed spacer 2 sequencing using fecal samples from 78 patients with NAFLD, 16 controls and 73 patients with alcohol use disorder. Anti-Candida albicans (C. albicans) IgG was measured in blood samples from 17 controls and 79 patients with NAFLD. Songbird, a novel multinominal regression tool, was used to investigate mycobiome changes. Germ-free mice were colonized with feces from patients with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), fed a Western diet for 20 weeks and treated with the antifungal amphotericin B.


The presence of non-obese NASH or F2-F4 fibrosis was associated with a distinct fecal mycobiome signature. Changes were characterized by an increased log-ratio for Mucor sp./Saccharomyces cerevisiae (S. cerevisiae) in patients with NASH and F2-F4 fibrosis. The C. albicans/S. cerevisiae log-ratio was significantly higher in non-obese patients with NASH when compared with non-obese patients with NAFL or controls. We observed a different fecal mycobiome composition in patients with NAFLD and advanced fibrosis compared to those with alcohol use disorder and advanced fibrosis. Plasma anti-C. albicans IgG was increased in patients with NAFLD and advanced fibrosis. Gnotobiotic mice, colonized with human NASH feces and treated with amphotericin B were protected from Western diet-induced steatohepatitis.


Non-obese patients with NAFLD and more advanced disease have a different fecal mycobiome composition to those with mild disease. Antifungal treatment ameliorates diet-induced steatohepatitis in mice. Intestinal fungi could be an attractive target to attenuate NASH.

Lay summary

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is one of the most common chronic liver diseases and is associated with changes in the fecal bacterial microbiome. We show that patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and more severe disease stages have a specific composition of fecal fungi and an increased systemic immune response to Candida albicans. In a fecal microbiome-humanized mouse model of Western diet-induced steatohepatitis, we show that treatment with antifungals reduces liver damage.