Oral microbiota signatures in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) veterans

Ella Levert-Levitt, Guy Shapira, Shlomo Sragovich, Noam Shomron, Jacqueline C.K. Lam, Victor O.K. Li, Markus M. Heimesaat, Stefan Bereswill, Ariel Ben Yehuda, Abraham Sagi-Schwartz, Zahava Solomon, Illana Gozes*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) represents a global public health concern, affecting about 1 in 20 individuals. The symptoms of PTSD include intrusiveness (involuntary nightmares or flashbacks), avoidance of traumatic memories, negative alterations in cognition and mood (such as negative beliefs about oneself or social detachment), increased arousal and reactivity with irritable reckless behavior, concentration problems, and sleep disturbances. PTSD is also highly comorbid with anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. To advance the field from subjective, self-reported psychological measurements to objective molecular biomarkers while considering environmental influences, we examined a unique cohort of Israeli veterans who participated in the 1982 Lebanon war. Non-invasive oral 16S RNA sequencing was correlated with psychological phenotyping. Thus, a microbiota signature (i.e., decreased levels of the bacteria sp_HMT_914, 332 and 871 and Noxia) was correlated with PTSD severity, as exemplified by intrusiveness, arousal, and reactivity, as well as additional psychopathological symptoms, including anxiety, hostility, memory difficulties, and idiopathic pain. In contrast, education duration correlated with significantly increased levels of sp_HMT_871 and decreased levels of Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes, and presented an inverted correlation with adverse psychopathological measures. Air pollution was positively correlated with PTSD symptoms, psychopathological symptoms, and microbiota composition. Arousal and reactivity symptoms were correlated with reductions in transaldolase, an enzyme controlling a major cellular energy pathway, that potentially accelerates aging. In conclusion, the newly discovered bacterial signature, whether an outcome or a consequence of PTSD, could allow for objective soldier deployment and stratification according to decreases in sp_HMT_914, 332, 871, and Noxia levels, coupled with increases in Bacteroidetes levels. These findings also raise the possibility of microbiota pathway-related non-intrusive treatments for PTSD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4590-4598
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular Psychiatry
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2022


FundersFunder number
Harry and Sadie Lasky Foundation
Morris Animal Foundation
National Academy of Medicine
Research Grants Council, University Grants CommitteeT41-709/17-N
Research Grants Council, University Grants Committee
University of Hong Kong
Tel Aviv University
Ministry of Science and Technology, Israel


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