Gut Microbiota Metabolism of Azathioprine: A New Hallmark for Personalized Drug-Targeted Therapy of Chronic Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Slavica Lazarević, Maja Đanic, Hani Al-Salami, Armin Mooranian, Momir Mikov

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Despite the growing number of new drugs approved for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), the long-term clinical use of thiopurine therapy and the well-known properties of conventional drugs including azathioprine have made their place in IBD therapy extremely valuable. Despite the fact that thiopurine S-methyltransferase (TPMT) polymorphism has been recognized as a major cause of the interindividual variability in the azathioprine response, recent evidence suggests that there might be some yet unknown causes which complicate dosing strategies causing either failure of therapy or toxicity. Increasing evidence suggests that gut microbiota, with its ability to release microbial enzymes, affects the pharmacokinetics of numerous drugs and subsequently drastically alters clinical effectiveness. Azathioprine, as an orally administered drug which has a complex metabolic pathway, is the prime illustrative candidate for such microbial metabolism of drugs. Comprehensive databases on microbial drug-metabolizing enzymes have not yet been generated. This study provides insights into the current evidence on microbiota-mediated metabolism of azathioprine and systematically accumulates findings of bacteria that possess enzymes required for the azathioprine biotransformation. Additionally, it proposes concepts for the identification of gut bacteria species responsible for the metabolism of azathioprine that could aid in the prediction of dose-response effects, complementing pharmacogenetic approaches already applied in the optimization of thiopurine therapy of IBD. It would be of great importance to elucidate to what extent microbiota-mediated metabolism of azathioprine contributes to the drug outcomes in IBD patients which could facilitate the clinical implementation of novel tools for personalized thiopurine treatment of IBD.
Original languageEnglish
Article number879170
JournalFrontiers in Pharmacology
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes


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