Could Skin Microbiome Changes Contribute to GvHD Development?

Research has shown that up to 70% of individuals who undergo stem cell transplantation experience organ damage within just a few months. Many develop graft-versus-host disease (GvHD), a complication in which donor cells attack the recipient’s body. Given that this damage can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening, it is crucial to understand the cause behind this. However, the research findings have been slim – until now. According to News Medical, a blended research team recently explored skin microbiome changes – and in particular, bacterial proliferation – could play a potential role in GvHD development. 

In the study findings, which are published in Leukemia, the research team evaluated fifty patients with leukemia who had stem cell transplants. They especially focused on patients who developed GvHD. Researchers analyzed microorganisms within the skin’s microbiome and found a significant reduction in bacteria and bacterial proliferation. But while the overall bacterial proliferation was lowered, those with GvHD also had higher levels of staphylococci bacteria on the skin. 

Admittedly, much more research is needed to understand the relationship between the skin microbiome and GvHD. However, given that researchers have identified these changes, they do have a jumping off point. In the future, research will center on this relationship, as well as potential therapies for those affected. 

What is Graft-versus-Host Disease (GvHD)? 

As described above, GvHD is a complication which can occur following allogeneic stem cell or bone marrow transplants. If the donor cells view the recipient’s body and cells as foreign, the cells attack, causing the symptoms. GvHD may be chronic (occurring 3+ months after a transplant with the possibility of lasting for life) or acute (occurring within 6 months). Potential symptoms of GvHD can include:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Dry eyes or mouth
  • Joint pain and/or stiffness
  • Difficulty swallowing or pain while swallowing
  • Skin rash and redness
  • Itchiness 
  • Fatigue and general malaise
  • Muscle weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unintended weight loss
Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email