Background: Multiple independent culture-based studies have identified the presence of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in respiratory samples as a positive risk factor for bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome (BOS). Yet, culture-independent microbiological techniques have identified a negative association between Pseudomonas species and BOS. Our objective was to investigate whether there may be a unifying explanation for these apparently dichotomous results.
Methods: We performed bronchoscopies with bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) on lung transplant recipients (46 procedures in 33 patients) and 26 non-transplant control subjects. We analyzed bacterial communities in the BAL fluid using qPCR and pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA gene amplicons and compared the culture-independent data with the clinical metadata and culture results from these subjects.
Findings: Route of bronchoscopy (via nose or via mouth) was not associated with changes in BAL microbiota (p = 0.90). Among the subjects with positive Pseudomonas bacterial culture, P. aeruginosa was also identified by culture-independent methods. In contrast, a distinct Pseudomonas species, P. fluorescens, was often identified in asymptomatic transplant subjects by pyrosequencing but not detected via standard bacterial culture. The subject populations harboring these two distinct pseudomonads differed significantly with respect to associated symptoms, BAL neutrophilia, bacterial DNA burden and microbial diversity. Despite notable differences in culturability, a global database search of UM Hospital Clinical Microbiology Laboratory records indicated that P. fluorescens is commonly isolated from respiratory specimens.
Interpretation: We have reported for the first time that two prominent and distinct Pseudomonas species (P. fluorescens and P. aeruginosa) exist within the post-transplant lung microbiome, each with unique genomic and microbiologic features and widely divergent clinical associations, including presence during acute infection.