Gut‑disc axis: A cause of intervertebral disc degeneration and low back pain?

European Spine Journal (2022) 31:917–925

Low back pain (LBP), a widely prevalent and costly disease around the world, is mainly caused by intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration (IDD). Although numerous factors may trigger this degenerative process, microbiome dysbiosis has recently been implicated as one of the likely causes. However, the exact relationship between the microbiome and IDD is not well understood. This review summarizes the potential mechanisms and discusses microbiome dysbiosis’s possible influence on IDD and LBP.

Methods Prospective literature review.

Results Alterations in microbiome composition and host responses to the microbiota causing pathological bone development and involution, led to the concept of gut-bone marrow axis and gut-bone axis. Moreover, the concept of the gut-disc axis was also proposed to explain the microbiome’s role in IDD and LBP. According to the existing evidence, the microbiome could be an important factor for inducing and aggravating IDD through changing or regulating the outside and inside microenvironment of the IVD. Three potential mechanisms by which the gut microbiota can induce IVD and cause LBP are: (1) translocation of the bacteria across the gut epithelial barrier and into the IVD, (2) regulation of the mucosal and systemic immune system, and (3) regulation of nutrient absorption and metabolites formation at the gut epithelium and its diffusion into the IVD. Furthermore, to investigate whether IVD is initiated by pathogenic bacteria and establish the correlation between the presence of certain microbial groups with the disease in question, microbiome diversity analysis based on16S rRNA data can be used to characterise stool/blood microbiota from IVD patients.

Conclusion Future studies on microbiome, fungi and viruses in IDD is necessary to revolutionize our thinking about their possible role in the development of IVD diseases. Furthermore, we believe that inflammation inhibition and interruption of amplification of cascade reaction in IVD by targeting the gut and IVD microbiome is worthwhile for the treatment of IDD and LBP.

Level of Evidence I Diagnostic: individual cross-sectional studies with the consistently applied reference standard and blinding.

%d bloggers like this: