During the study, the team examined blood levels of metabolic products in the gut microbiomes of 316 people from three groups: those with regular levels of plaque for their age, those who had low levels of plaque despite being at high risk, and those who had unusually high levels of plaque.
They discovered that in the patients with unusually high levels of plaque, there were significantly higher blood levels of harmful metabolic products. Specifically, these were the metabolites TMAO, p-cresyl sulfate, p-cresyl glucuronide, and phenylacetylglutamine, which are created by gut bacteria. They also assessed the development of plaques in the arteries via carotid ultrasound.
The unusual amounts of plaque could not be explained by poor diet or kidney function, but there was a difference in the gut microbiome between these patients and those with lower plaque levels. The gut microbiome has been seen much interest in recent years, and it is becoming increasingly clear that the diversity and types of bacteria in the gut microbiome play an important role in aging and disease development.
The results of this study strongly support the role that the gut microbiome plays in a person’s risk for developing atherosclerosis. This also opens up potential avenues to treat this disease, such as using probiotics and other approaches to repopulate the gut microbiome and reduce populations of harmful bacteria to lower levels.
 Bogiatzi, C., Gloor, G., Allen-Vercoe, E., Reid, G., Wong, R. G., Urquhart, B. L., … & Spence, J. D. (2018). Metabolic products of the intestinal microbiome and extremes of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis.