Oral glucosamine sulfate (GS) and chondroitin sulfate (CS), while widely marketed as joint-protective supplements, have limited intestinal absorption and are predominantly utilized by gut microbiota. Hence the effects of these supplements on the gut microbiome are of great interest, and may clarify their mode of action, or explain heterogeneity in therapeutic responses. We conducted a systematic review of animal and human studies reporting the effects of GS or CS on gut microbial composition. We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Scopus databases for journal articles in English from database inception until July 2018, using search terms microbiome, microflora, intestinal microbiota/flora, gut microbiota/flora and glucosamine or chondroitin. Eight original articles reported the effects of GS or CS on microbiome composition in adult humans (four articles) or animals (four articles). Studies varied significantly in design, supplementation protocols, and microbiome assessment methods. There was moderate-quality evidence for an association between CS exposure and increased abundance of genus Bacteroides in the murine and human gut, and low-quality evidence for an association between CS exposure and an increase in Desulfovibrio piger species, an increase in Bacteroidales S24-7 family, and a decrease in Lactobacillus. We discuss the possible metabolic implications of these changes for the host. For GS, evidence of effects on gut microbiome was limited to one low-quality study. This review highlights the importance of considering the potential influence of oral CS supplements on gut microbiota when evaluating their effects and safety for the host.
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