pH of Drinking Water Influences the Composition of Gut Microbiome and Type 1 Diabetes Incidence

  1. Chenthamarakshan Vasu1,2
  1. 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC
  2. 2Department of Surgery, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC
  3. 3Department of Surgery, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL
  1. Corresponding author: Chenthamarakshan Vasu, vasu{at}


Nonobese diabetic (NOD) mice spontaneously develop type 1 diabetes (T1D), progression of which is similar to that in humans, and therefore are widely used as a model for understanding the immunological basis of this disease. The incidence of T1D in NOD mice is influenced by the degree of cleanliness of the mouse colony and the gut microflora. In this report, we show that the T1D incidence and rate of disease progression are profoundly influenced by the pH of drinking water, which also affects the composition and diversity of commensal bacteria in the gut. Female NOD mice that were maintained on acidic pH water (AW) developed insulitis and hyperglycemia rapidly compared with those on neutral pH water (NW). Interestingly, forced dysbiosis by segmented filamentous bacteria (SFB)-positive fecal transfer significantly suppressed the insulitis and T1D incidence in mice that were on AW but not in those on NW. The 16S rDNA–targeted pyrosequencing revealed a significant change in the composition and diversity of gut flora when the pH of drinking water was altered. Importantly, autoantigen-specific T-cell frequencies in the periphery and proinflammatory cytokine response in the intestinal mucosa are significantly higher in AW-recipient mice compared with their NW counterparts. These observations suggest that pH of drinking water affects the composition of gut microflora, leading to an altered autoimmune response and T1D incidence in NOD mice.


  • Received June 22, 2013.
  • Accepted October 30, 2013.

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  1. Diabetes vol. 63 no. 2 632-644
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