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This article is the author’s final published version in Journal of Medical Microbiology, Volume 71, Issue 4, April 2022, Article number 001512

The published version is available at Copyright © Microbiology Society.


Introduction. Evidence has linked exogenous and endogenous sex hormones with the human microbiome.Hypothesis/Gap statement. The longitudinal effects of oral contraceptives (OC) on the human gut microbiome have not previously been studied.Aim. We sought to examine the longitudinal impact of OC use on the taxonomic composition and metabolic functions of the gut microbiota and endogenous sex steroid hormones after initiation of OC use.Methodology. We recruited ten healthy women who provided blood and stool samples prior to OC use, 1 month and 6 months after starting OC. We measured serum levels of sex hormones, including estradiol, progesterone, sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), and total testosterone. Shotgun metagenomic sequencing was performed on DNA extracted from faecal samples. Species and metabolic pathway abundances were determined using MetaPhlAn2 and HUMAnN2. Multivariate association with linear models was used to identify microbial species and metabolic pathways associated with OC use and endogenous levels of sex hormones.Results. The percentage variance of the microbial community explained by individual factors ranged from 9.9 % for age to 2.7 % for time since initiation of OC use. We observed no changes in the diversity or composition of the gut microbiome following OC initiation. However, the relative abundance of the biosynthesis pathways of peptidoglycan, amino acids (lysine, threonine, methionine, and tryptophan), and the NAD salvage pathway increased after OC initiation. In addition, serum levels of estradiol and SHBG were positively associated with Eubacterium ramulus, a flavonoid-degrading bacterium. Similarly, microbes involving biosynthesis of l-lysine, l-threonine, and l-methionine were significantly associated with lower estradiol, SHBG, and higher levels of total testosterone.Conclusion. Our study provides the first piece of evidence supporting the association between exogenous and endogenous sex hormones and gut microbiome composition and function.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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