Pulmonary damage caused by chronic colonization of the cystic fibrosis (CF) lung by microbial communities is the proximal cause of respiratory failure. While there has been an effort to document the microbiome of the CF lung in pediatric and adult patients, little is known regarding the developing microflora in infants. We examined the respiratory and intestinal microbiota development in infants with CF from birth to 21 months. Distinct genera dominated in the gut compared to those in the respiratory tract, yet some bacteria overlapped, demonstrating a core microbiota dominated by Veillonella and Streptococcus. Bacterial diversity increased significantly over time, with evidence of more rapidly acquired diversity in the respiratory tract. There was a high degree of concordance between the bacteria that were increasing or decreasing over time in both compartments; in particular, a significant proportion (14/16 genera) increasing in the gut were also increasing in the respiratory tract. For 7 genera, gut colonization presages their appearance in the respiratory tract. Clustering analysis of respiratory samples indicated profiles of bacteria associated with breast-feeding, and for gut samples, introduction of solid foods even after adjustment for the time at which the sample was collected. Furthermore, changes in diet also result in altered respiratory microflora, suggesting a link between nutrition and development of microbial communities in the respiratory tract. Our findings suggest that nutritional factors and gut colonization patterns are determinants of the microbial development of respiratory tract microbiota in infants with CF and present opportunities for early intervention in CF with altered dietary or probiotic strategies.
Importance: While efforts have been focused on assessing the microbiome of pediatric and adult cystic fibrosis (CF) patients to understand how chronic colonization by these microbes contributes to pulmonary damage, little is known regarding the earliest development of respiratory and gut microflora in infants with CF. Our findings suggest that colonization of the respiratory tract by microbes is presaged by colonization of the gut and demonstrated a role of nutrition in development of the respiratory microflora. Thus, targeted dietary or probiotic strategies may be an effective means to change the course of the colonization of the CF lung and thereby improve patient outcomes.