Assessment of stability and fluctuations of cultured lower airway bacterial communities in people with cystic fibrosis

Laura J Sherrard, Gisli G Einarsson, Elinor Johnston, Katherine O'Neill, Leanne McIlreavey, Stephanie J McGrath, Deirdre F Gilpin, Damian G Downey, Alastair Reid, Noel G McElvaney, Richard C Boucher, Marianne S Muhlebach, J. Stuart Elborn, Michael M Tunney

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BACKGROUND: Routine clinical culture detects a subset of the cystic fibrosis (CF) airways microbiota based on culture-independent (molecular) methods. This study aimed to determine how extended sputum culture of viable bacteria changes over time in relation to clinical status and predicts exacerbations.

METHODS: Sputa from patients at a baseline stable and up to three subsequent time-points were analysed by extended-quantitative culture; aerobe/anaerobe densities, ecological indexes and community structure were assessed together with clinical outcomes.

RESULTS: Eighty patients were prospectively recruited. Sputa were successfully collected and cultured at 199/267 (74.5%) study visits. Eighty-two sputa from 25 patients comprised a complete sample-set for longitudinal analyses. Bacterial density, ecological indexes and clinical outcomes were unchanged in 18 patients with three sequential stable visits. Conversely, in 7 patients who had an exacerbation, total bacterial and aerobe densities differed over four study visits (P < .001) with this difference particularly apparent between the baseline visit and completion of acute antibiotic treatment where a decrease in density was observed. Bacterial communities were more similar within than between patients but stable patients had the least variation in community structure over time. Using logistic regression in a further analysis, baseline features in 37 patients without compared to 15 patients with a subsequent exacerbation showed that clinical measures rather than bacterial density or ecological indexes were independent predictors of an exacerbation.

CONCLUSIONS: Greater fluctuation in the viable bacterial community during treatment of an exacerbation than between stable visits was observed. Extended-quantitative culture did not provide prognostic information of a future exacerbation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of cystic fibrosis : official journal of the European Cystic Fibrosis Society
Early online date21 Mar 2019
Publication statusEarly online date - 21 Mar 2019


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Copyright © 2019 European Cystic Fibrosis Society. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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