Interaction of toxic metals with the gut microbiome

Wenbo Yan, Deepak Saxena

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Human exposure to heavy metals in the environment is becoming a major health concern to the public. Since heavy metal absorption mainly occurs through the gastrointestinal tract, the gut microbiome will be the first group of organisms in the human holobiont to encounter the heavy metals. The gut microbiome plays a vital role in maintaining physiological homeostasis and human health. Dysbiosis of gut microbiota, which is an imbalance in the composition and function of these gut microbes, is associated with a broad range of chronic diseases, including cancer and inflammatory, metabolic, cardiovascular, autoimmune, neurologic, and psychiatric diseases. Heavy metals are known to be toxic to living organisms including microbes; however, their mechanisms of action are not fully understood. Exposure to toxic metals can column-break type="column"/--< change the composition, diversity, and function of the gut microbiome. Because of the gut microbiome's strategic localization in the human gastrointestinal tract and its profound impact on the homeostatic regulation of human body function, it is likely that the heavy metal-induced alteration of the gut microbial community mediates at least some of the toxicity of heavy metals in humans. Moreover, the gut microbiome could mitigate heavy metal toxicity by decreasing absorption and increasing elimination. In addition, the gut microbiome may be used as a prime target for monitoring environmental exposures to the toxic metals. In summary, the gut microbiome may be an important explanatory factor of metal toxicity, metal penetrance in humans, and a novel target for monitoring, prevention, and treatment strategies. More research on the impact of interaction between heavy metals and the gut microbiome on human health is warranted (. Fig. 8.1).

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationGeneral Considerations
    Number of pages8
    ISBN (Print)9780128232927
    StatePublished - Dec 2 2021


    • Antimicrobial
    • Environmental toxicity
    • Heavy metals
    • Human exposure
    • Metabolic disease
    • Microbiome

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Medicine


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