Peer Reviewed


Oral Microbiomes Differ in GERD and Functional Heartburn

Recent research suggests that oral microbiomes differ between patients with symptomatic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and functional heartburn.

“Patients with reflux-related disease have distinct changes in their oral and esophageal microbiome compared to healthy individuals, but it is unknown whether the microbiome differs in patients with functional symptoms of heartburn compared to those with GERD,” the researchers wrote.

They conducted a prospective study of 51 adults separated into 3 groups: asymptomatic, functional heartburn, and symptomatic GERD. Saliva samples were collected during a fasting state and following at least 7 days without acid suppressive therapy.

Overall, the researchers observed no significant overall differences in UniFrac beta diversity metrics between the 3 groups, but a suggestive difference was observed in unweighted UniFrac beta diversity between the GERD and functional heartburn groups.

“This pilot analysis does not identify a significantly different oral microbiome between healthy subjects and symptomatic patients with or without objective acidic GERD, however there is a suggestive difference between functional heartburn and symptomatic GERD patients. Further research in larger populations is needed to understand whether reflux of gastric acid is associated with distinct oral microbiome,” they concluded.

—Michael Potts


Hasan A, Birmingham A, Greytak M, et al. Oral microbiome characteristics in gastroesophageal reflux disease and functional heartburn. Presented at Digestive Disease Week 2021. May 22, 2021.