Shiftwork, functional bowel symptoms, and the microbiome
Background: There are about 15 million Americans working full-time on evening, night, or rotating shifts. Between 48% and 81.9% of those working rotating or night shifts report abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea and other symptoms of functional bowel disorders. The basis for this high prevalence of functional bowel disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), among shift workers is unknown. Animal studies, however, suggest that circadian disruption, similar to that in shift workers, may contribute to the development of GI complaints among shift workers by altering the composition and normal diurnal rhythmicity of the resident intestinal microbes. Therefore, the present study was designed to determine if there were differences in (1) composition and diversity of the microbiome of night shift workers compared to day shift workers; and (2) the composition and diversity of the microbiome among shift workers experiencing functional bowel symptoms compared to shift workers who did not experience functional bowel symptoms.
Methods: Fifty-one full time staff nurses who worked either 12-hour day or night shifts completed demographic information, and the Rome III IBS module. They also collected two samples of gut microbiota before the beginning and at the end of their last work shift on day 14, using validated field-tested methods consistent with the Human Microbiome Project. After DNA extraction, 16S rRNA sequencing and assignment to the genus level was completed, samples were then compared to determine if there were (1) differences in the diversity and profile of the microbiome by shift type; (2) if there were differences in the microbiome by time of day for collection; and (3) whether there were differences in the diversity and profile of the microbiome of nurses with IBS and those without IBS.
Results: There were no differences in alpha or beta diversity of gut microbiota when specimens from day and night shift nurses were compared. There were however marginal differences in beta diversity when specimens collected at the beginning and end of the shifts were compared, with seven OTUs being differentially abundant when collected from day shift workers in the evening. There were also three OTUs to be differentially abundant in participants reporting IBS symptoms.
Rogers, A. E. et al. Shiftwork, functional bowel symptoms, and the microbiome. PeerJ 9, e11406 (2021)