Compelling animal data exists examining the impact of the gut microbiome on the brain, but work is required to translate these findings in a clinical population. We sought to do this by exploring the effects of antidepressant medications on the gut microbiota, and establishing a baseline Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) gut phenotype.
Participants with a primary diagnosis of MDD (n = 15) who were nonmedicated were recruited and followed over 6 months. Stool samples were collected prior to treatment initiation and 3 and 6 months following treatment. 16S rRNA sequencing was employed in order to analyze the gut microbial community profile. Symptom severity was measured by the Beck Depression Inventory. Alpha diversity metrics revealed no significant difference in the community diversity across any of the time-points.
Comparison of within-group versus between-group distances revealed a lack of clustering of samples based on time-point, suggesting no significant change in the microbiota across treatment duration. When analyzed based on treatment response, however, patients in the responder group exhibited greater phylogenetic diversity than non-responders (Mann-Whitney U = 5, p = 0.026). At 3-months, 35 Operational Taxonomic Units (OTUs) were significantly different between groups and at 6-months, 42 OTUs were significantly different between responders and non-responders.
These observations indicate that antidepressant medications alter the gut microbiota of patients with MDD, with disparate effects in responders versus non responders. This supports the concept of a microbiota phenotype associate with treatment response in MDD.