Researchers, including one of Indian origin, have found that analysis of the gut microbiome — a collection of bacteria and other microbes in the gut — could help better predict risk of hospitalisation for patients with cirrhosis, a condition in which the liver does not function properly. “The hospitalisations that take place with cirrhosis are exorbitantly expensive,” said the study’s lead author Jasmohan Bajaj from Virginia Commonwealth University in the US. “Anything that helps us predict the likelihood of hospitalization is better than the status quo,” Bajaj said. The study, published in the journal JCI Insight in March, determined that analysis of microbial DNA and microbial RNA could be used alongside current clinical methods to more accurately predict 90-day hospitalisations for these patients. Microbial DNA analysis identifies live and dead bacterial species, while microbial RNA analysis identifies the most metabolically active microbial species. Cirrhosis is a leading cause of increased health expenditures due to hospitalizations and of mortality worldwide, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the US National Institutes of Health. The researchers theorised that relative abundances of pathogenic and non-pathogenic bacteria in the gut microbiome would be accurate predictors of hospitalisation because of their link with inflammation, which often leads to infection. “One of the major sources of inflammation in patients with cirrhosis or individuals who are obese is pathogenic bacteria, so, we began looking at gut microbes,” Bajaj said. “People with cirrhosis who are hospitalised tend to get a very big inflammatory surge in their body because of infections and other organ failures,” Bajaj added. The researchers conducted a trial of patients with cirrhosis who were classified according to cirrhosis-related complications, such as renal dysfunction and infection.