Bacterial biota in the human distal esophagus

Zhiheng Pei, Edmund J. Bini, Liying Yang, Meisheng Zhou, Fritz Francois, Martin J. Blaser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

282 Scopus citations


The esophagus, like other luminal organs of the digestive system, provides a potential environment for bacterial colonization, but little is known about the presence of a bacterial biota or its nature. By using broad-range 16S rDNA PCR, biopsies were examined from the normal esophagus of four human adults. The 900 PCR products cloned represented 833 unique sequences belonging to 41 genera, or 95 species-level operational taxonomic units (SLOTU); 59 SLOTU were homologous with culture-defined bacterial species, 34 with 16S rDNA clones, and two were not homologous with any known bacterial 16S rDNA. Members of six phyla, Firmicutes, Bacteroides, Actinobacteria, Proteobacteria, Fusobacteria, and TM7, were represented. A large majority of clones belong to 13 of the 41 genera (783/900, 87%), or 14 SLOTU (574/900, 64%) that were shared by all four persons. Streptococcus (39%), Prevotella (17%), and Veilonella (14%) were most prevalent. The present study identified ≈56-79% of SLOTU in this bacterial ecosystem. Most SLOTU of esophageal biota are similar or identical to residents of the upstream oral biota, but the major distinction is that a large majority (82%) of the esophageal bacteria are known and cultivable. These findings provide evidence for a complex but conserved bacterial population in the normal distal esophagus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4250-4255
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number12
StatePublished - Mar 23 2004
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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