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Heterogeneity in statin responses explained by variation in the human gut microbiome

Background: Statins remain one of the most prescribed medications worldwide. While effective in decreasing atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk, statin use is associated with adverse effects for a subset of patients, including disrupted metabolic control and increased risk of type 2 diabetes.


Methods: We investigated the potential role of the gut microbiome in modifying patient responses to statin therapy across two independent cohorts (discovery n = 1,848, validation n = 991). Microbiome composition was assessed in these cohorts using stool 16S rRNA amplicon and shotgun metagenomic sequencing, respectively. Microbiome associations with markers of statin on-target and adverse effects were tested via a covariate-adjusted interaction analysis framework, utilizing blood metabolomics, clinical laboratory tests, genomics, and demographics data.


Findings: The hydrolyzed substrate for 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaratecoenzyme-A (HMG-CoA) reductase, HMG, emerged as a promising marker for statin on-target effects in cross-sectional cohorts. Plasma HMG levels reflected both statin therapy intensity and known genetic markers for variable statin responses. Through exploring gut microbiome associations between blood-derived measures of statin effectiveness and adverse metabolic effects of statins, we find that heterogeneity in statin responses was consistently associated with variation in the gut microbiome across two independent cohorts. A Bacteroides-enriched and diversity-depleted gut microbiome was associated with more intense statin responses, both in terms of on-target and adverse effects.


Conclusions: With further study and refinement, gut microbiome monitoring may help inform precision statin treatment.


Funding: This research was supported by the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, WRF, NAM Catalyst Award, and NIH grant U19AG023122 awarded by the NIA


Heterogeneity in statin responses explained by variation in the human gut microbiome
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