Inflammation and airway microbiota during cystic fibrosis pulmonary exacerbations

PLoS One. 2013 Apr 30;8(4):e62917. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062917. Print 2013.


Background: Pulmonary exacerbations (PEx), frequently associated with airway infection and inflammation, are the leading cause of morbidity in cystic fibrosis (CF). Molecular microbiologic approaches detect complex microbiota from CF airway samples taken during PEx. The relationship between airway microbiota, inflammation, and lung function during CF PEx is not well understood.

Objective: To determine the relationships between airway microbiota, inflammation, and lung function in CF subjects treated for PEx.

Methods: Expectorated sputum and blood were collected and lung function testing performed in CF subjects during early (0-3d.) and late treatment (>7d.) for PEx. Sputum was analyzed by culture, pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA amplicons, and quantitative PCR for total and specific bacteria. Sputum IL-8 and neutrophil elastase (NE); and circulating C-reactive protein (CRP) were measured.

Results: Thirty-seven sputum samples were collected from 21 CF subjects. At early treatment, lower diversity was associated with high relative abundance (RA) of Pseudomonas (r = -0.67, p<0.001), decreased FEV(1%) predicted (r = 0.49, p = 0.03) and increased CRP (r = -0.58, p = 0.01). In contrast to Pseudomonas, obligate and facultative anaerobic genera were associated with less inflammation and higher FEV₁. With treatment, Pseudomonas RA and P. aeruginosa by qPCR decreased while anaerobic genera showed marked variability in response. Change in RA of Prevotella was associated with more variability in FEV₁ response to treatment than Pseudomonas or Staphylococcus.

Conclusions: Anaerobes identified from sputum by sequencing are associated with less inflammation and higher lung function compared to Pseudomonas at early exacerbation. CF PEx treatment results in variable changes of anaerobic genera suggesting the need for larger studies particularly of patients without traditional CF pathogens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Cystic Fibrosis / complications*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / drug therapy
  • Cystic Fibrosis / microbiology*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / complications*
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Inflammation / microbiology*
  • Male
  • Metagenome*
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Respiratory System / microbiology*
  • Respiratory System / physiopathology
  • Sputum / microbiology
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents