Corticosteroid therapy and airflow obstruction influence the bronchial microbiome, which is distinct from that of bronchoalveolar lavage in asthmatic airways

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2016 May;137(5):1398-1405.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2015.10.017. Epub 2015 Nov 25.


Background: The lung has a diverse microbiome that is modest in biomass. This microbiome differs in asthmatic patients compared with control subjects, but the effects of clinical characteristics on the microbial community composition and structure are not clear.

Objectives: We examined whether the composition and structure of the lower airway microbiome correlated with clinical characteristics of chronic persistent asthma, including airflow obstruction, use of corticosteroid medications, and presence of airway eosinophilia.

Methods: DNA was extracted from endobronchial brushings and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid collected from 39 asthmatic patients and 19 control subjects, along with negative control samples. 16S rRNA V4 amplicon sequencing was used to compare the relative abundance of bacterial genera with clinical characteristics.

Results: Differential feature selection analysis revealed significant differences in microbial diversity between brush and lavage samples from asthmatic patients and control subjects. Lactobacillus, Pseudomonas, and Rickettsia species were significantly enriched in samples from asthmatic patients, whereas Prevotella, Streptococcus, and Veillonella species were enriched in brush samples from control subjects. Generalized linear models on brush samples demonstrated oral corticosteroid use as an important factor affecting the relative abundance of the taxa that were significantly enriched in asthmatic patients. In addition, bacterial α-diversity in brush samples from asthmatic patients was correlated with FEV1 and the proportion of lavage eosinophils.

Conclusion: The diversity and composition of the bronchial airway microbiome of asthmatic patients is distinct from that of nonasthmatic control subjects and influenced by worsening airflow obstruction and corticosteroid use.

Keywords: 16S ribosomal RNA; Asthma; FEV(1); bacteria; corticosteroids; microbiome.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use*
  • Adult
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Asthma / microbiology*
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Bronchi / microbiology*
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / microbiology*
  • Eosinophilia / microbiology
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microbiota*
  • RNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • RNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S