Molecular detection of multiple emerging pathogens in sputa from cystic fibrosis patients

PLoS One. 2008 Aug 6;3(8):e2908. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002908.


Background: There is strong evidence that culture-based methods detect only a small proportion of bacteria present in the respiratory tracts of cystic fibrosis (CF) patients.

Methodology/principal findings: Standard microbiological culture and phenotypic identification of bacteria in sputa from CF patients have been compared to molecular methods by the use of 16S rDNA amplification, cloning and sequencing. Twenty-five sputa from CF patients were cultured that yield 33 isolates (13 species) known to be pathogens during CF. For molecular cloning, 760 clones were sequenced (7.2+/-3.9 species/sputum), and 53 different bacterial species were identified including 16 species of anaerobes (30%). Discrepancies between culture and molecular data were numerous and demonstrate that accurate identification remains challenging. New or emerging bacteria not or rarely reported in CF patients were detected including Dolosigranulum pigrum, Dialister pneumosintes, and Inquilinus limosus.

Conclusions/significance: Our results demonstrate the complex microbial community in sputa from CF patients, especially anaerobic bacteria that are probably an underestimated cause of CF lung pathology. Metagenomic analysis is urgently needed to better understand those complex communities in CF pulmonary infections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Bacteria, Anaerobic / genetics*
  • Bacteria, Anaerobic / isolation & purification*
  • Child
  • Cystic Fibrosis / microbiology*
  • DNA Primers
  • Gene Amplification
  • Humans
  • Lung / microbiology
  • Lung / pathology
  • RNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Sputum / microbiology*


  • DNA Primers
  • RNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S