Rationale: Although airway microbiota composition correlates with clinical measures in non-cystic fibrosis bronchiectasis, these data are unlikely to provide useful prognostic information at the individual patient level. A system enabling microbiota data to be applied clinically would represent a substantial translational advance.
Objectives: This study aims to determine whether stratification of patients according to the predominant microbiota taxon can provide improved clinical insight compared with standard diagnostics.
Methods: The presence of bacterial respiratory pathogens was assessed in induced sputum from 107 adult patients by culture, quantitative PCR, and, in 96 samples, by ribosomal gene pyrosequencing. Prospective analysis was performed on samples from 42 of these patients. Microbiological data were correlated with concurrent clinical measures and subsequent outcomes.
Measurements and main results: Microbiota analysis defined three groups: Pseudomonas aeruginosa dominated (n = 26), Haemophilus influenzae dominated (n = 34), and other taxa dominated (n = 36). Patients with P. aeruginosa- and H. influenzae-dominated communities had significantly worse lung function, higher serum levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), and higher sputum levels of IL-8 and IL-1β. Predominance of P. aeruginosa, followed by Veillonella species, was the best predictor of future exacerbation frequency, with H. influenzae-dominated communities having significantly fewer episodes. Detection of P. aeruginosa was associated with poor lung function and exacerbation frequency, irrespective of analytical strategy. Quantitative PCR revealed significant correlations between H. influenzae levels and sputum IL-8, IL-1β, and serum CRP. Genus richness was negatively correlated with 24-hour sputum weight, age, serum CRP, sputum IL-1β, and IL-8.
Conclusions: Stratification of patients with non-cystic fibrosis bronchiectasis on the basis of predominant bacterial taxa is more clinically informative than either conventional culture or quantitative PCR-based analysis. Further investigation is now required to assess the mechanistic basis of these associations.