Inflammatory Endotype-Associated Airway Resistome in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Microbiol Spectr. 2022 Apr 27;10(2):e0259321. doi: 10.1128/spectrum.02593-21. Epub 2022 Mar 21.


Antimicrobial resistance is a global concern in chronic respiratory diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The collection of antibiotic resistance genes or resistome in human airways may underlie the resistance. COPD is heterogeneous, and understanding the airway resistome in relation to patient phenotype and endotype may inform precision antibiotic therapy. Here, we characterized the airway resistome for 94 COPD participants at stable disease. Among all demographic and clinical factors, patient inflammatory endotype was associated with the airway resistome. There were distinct resistome profiles between patients with neutrophilic or eosinophilic inflammation, two primary inflammatory endotypes in COPD. For neutrophil-predominant COPD, the resistome was dominated by multidrug resistance genes. For eosinophil-predominant COPD, the resistome was diverse, with an increased portion of patients showing a macrolide-high resistome. The differential antimicrobial resistance pattern was validated by sputum culture and in vitro antimicrobial susceptibility testing. Ralstonia and Pseudomonas were the top contributors to the neutrophil-associated resistome, whereas Campylobacter and Aggregatibacter contributed most to the eosinophil-associated resistome. Multiomic analyses revealed specific host pathways and inflammatory mediators associated with the resistome. The arachidonic acid metabolic pathway and matrix metallopeptidase 8 (MMP-8) exhibited the strongest associations with the neutrophil-associated resistome, whereas the eosinophil chemotaxis pathway and interleukin-13 (IL-13) showed the greatest associations with the eosinophil-associated resistome. These results highlight a previously unrecognized link between inflammation and the airway resistome and suggest the need for considering patient inflammatory subtype in decision-making about antibiotic use in COPD and broader chronic respiratory diseases. IMPORTANCE Antibiotics are commonly prescribed for both acute and long-term prophylactic treatment in chronic airway disorders, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and the rapid growth of antibiotic resistance is alarming globally. The airway harbors a diverse collection of microorganisms known as microbiota, which serve as a reservoir for antibiotic resistance genes or the resistome. A comprehensive understanding of the airway resistome in relation to patient clinical and biological factors may help inform decisions to select appropriate antibiotics for clinical therapies. By deep multiomic profiling and in vitro phenotypic testing, we showed that inflammatory endotype, the underlying pattern of airway inflammation, was most strongly associated with the airway resistome in COPD patients. There were distinct resistome profiles between neutrophil-predominant and eosinophil-predominant COPD that were associated with different bacterial species, host pathways, and inflammatory markers, highlighting the need of considering patient inflammatory status in COPD antibiotic management.

Keywords: COPD; airway microbiome; antibiotic resistance; inflammation; macrolides.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Asthma*
  • Eosinophils / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / drug therapy
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / genetics
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / metabolism


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents