Editor’s note: A previous version of the headline said the gut bacteria may contribute to poor health in patients with kidney disease. It is the metabolic product of the bacteria that may contribute to serious health problems.

The accumulation of a gut bacterial metabolite in chronic kidney disease patients that’s normally excreted in urine may contribute to serious health problems, according to findings come from a study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN).

A team led by Björn Meijers, MD, PhD ,and Ruben Poesen, MD, from the University Hospitals Leuven, in Belgium studied the metabolite phenylacetylglutamine (PAG) in 488 patients with CKD. After following the patients for an average of 3.5 years, the researchers found that blood levels of PAG were higher in patients with more advanced CKD. In addition, patients with high PAG had an elevated risk of developing cardiovascular disease as well as a heightened risk of dying during follow-up.

“There has been increasing awareness that the gut microbiota is not only pivotal for human health but is also involved in various disease processes, including obesity and diabetes mellitus,” said Meijers. “This study adds evidence that the gut microbiota may likewise be a contributor to the disease burden in patients with a diminished kidney function. Furthermore, this knowledge may pave the way for novel therapeutic interventions by both dietary measures and drugs, thereby hopefully improving the prognosis and quality of life of kidney disease patients.”