Prescription opioids induce gut dysbiosis and exacerbate colitis in a murine model of inflammatory bowel disease

Umakant Sharma, Rohini Khatri Olson, Federico Nicolas Erhart, Li Zhang, Jingjing Meng, Bradley Segura, Santanu Banerjee, Madhulika Sharma, Ashok Kumar Saluja, Sundaram Ramakrishnan, Maria T. Abreu, Sabita Roy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Background and Aims: Opioids are the most prescribed analgesics for pain in inflammatory bowel diseases [IBD]; however, the consequences of opioid use on IBD severity are not well defined. This is the first study investigating consequences of hydromorphone in both dextran sodium sulphate [DSS]-induced colitis and spontaneous colitis (IL-10 knockout [IL-10-/-]) mouse models of IBD. Methods: To determine the consequences of opioids on IBD pathogenesis, wild-type [WT] mice were treated with clinically relevant doses of hydromorphone and colitis was induced via 3% DSS in drinking water for 5 days. In parallel we also determined the consequences of opioids in a spontaneous colitis model. Results: Hydromorphone and DSS independently induced barrier dysfunction, bacterial translocation, disruption of tight junction organisation and increased intestinal and systemic inflammation, which were exacerbated in mice receiving hydromorphone in combination with DSS. Hydromorphone + DSS-treated mice exhibited significant microbial dysbiosis. Predictive metagenomic analysis of the gut microbiota revealed high abundance in the bacterial communities associated with virulence, antibiotic resistance, toxin production, and inflammatory properties. Hydromorphone modulates tight junction organisation in a myosin light chain kinase [MLCK]-dependent manner. Treatment with MLCK inhibitor ML-7 ameliorates the detrimental effects of hydromorphone on DSS-induced colitis and thus decreases severity of IBD. Similarly, we demonstrated that hydromorphone treatment in IL-10-/- mice resulted in accelerated clinical manifestations of colitis compared with control mice. Conclusions: Opioids used for pain management in IBD accelerate IBD progression by dysregulation of the gut microbiota, leading to expansion of pathogenic bacteria, translocation of bacteria, immune deregulation and sustained inflammation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)801-817
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Crohn's and Colitis
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 European Crohn's and Colitis Organisation (ECCO).


  • IBD
  • Microbiome
  • Prescription opioid


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