Objective: Emerging evidence demonstrated that the structure of fecal microbiome is associated with the likelihood of bronchiolitis in infants. However, no study has examined functional profiles of fecal microbiome in infants with bronchiolitis. In this context, we conducted a case-control study. As a part of multicenter prospective study, we collected stool samples from 40 infants hospitalized with bronchiolitis (cases). We concurrently enrolled 115 age-matched healthy controls.
Results: First, by applying 16S rRNA gene sequencing to these 155 fecal samples, we identified the taxonomic profiles of fecal microbiome. Next, based on the taxonomy data, we inferred the functional capabilities of fecal microbiome and tested for differences in the functional capabilities between cases and controls. Overall, the median age was 3 months and 45% were female. Among 274 metabolic pathways surveyed, there were significant differences between bronchiolitis cases and healthy controls for 37 pathways, including lipid metabolic pathways (false discovery rate [FDR] <0.05). Particularly, the fecal microbiome of bronchiolitis cases had consistently higher abundances of gene function related to the sphingolipid metabolic pathways compared to that of controls (FDR <0.05). These pathways were more abundant in infants with Bacteroides-dominant microbiome profile compared to the others (FDR <0.001). On the basis of the predicted metagenome in this case-control study, we found significant differences in the functional potential of fecal microbiome between infants with bronchiolitis and healthy controls. Although causal inferences remain premature, our data suggest a potential link between the bacteria-derived metabolites, modulations of host immune response, and development of bronchiolitis.
Keywords: Bacteroides; Bronchiolitis; Infants; Microbiome; Sphingolipids.