The lung microbiome in moderate and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e47305. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0047305. Epub 2012 Oct 11.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an inflammatory disorder characterized by incompletely reversible airflow obstruction. Bacterial infection of the lower respiratory tract contributes to approximately 50% of COPD exacerbations. Even during periods of stable lung function, the lung harbors a community of bacteria, termed the microbiome. The role of the lung microbiome in the pathogenesis of COPD remains unknown. The COPD lung microbiome, like the healthy lung microbiome, appears to reflect microaspiration of oral microflora. Here we describe the COPD lung microbiome of 22 patients with Moderate or Severe COPD compared to 10 healthy control patients. The composition of the lung microbiomes was determined using 454 pyrosequencing of 16S rDNA found in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid. Sequences were analyzed using mothur, Ribosomal Database Project, Fast UniFrac, and Metastats. Our results showed a significant increase in microbial diversity with the development of COPD. The main phyla in all samples were Actinobacteria, Firmicutes, and Proteobacteria. Principal coordinate analyses demonstrated separation of control and COPD samples, but samples did not cluster based on disease severity. However, samples did cluster based on the use of inhaled corticosteroids and inhaled bronchodilators. Metastats analyses demonstrated an increased abundance of several oral bacteria in COPD samples.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acidobacteria / isolation & purification
  • Actinobacteria / isolation & purification
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bacteroidetes / isolation & purification
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / microbiology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Fusobacteria / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Lung / microbiology*
  • Male
  • Metagenome*
  • Middle Aged
  • Proteobacteria / isolation & purification
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / immunology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / microbiology*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / chemistry


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S