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Br J Biomed Sci. 2005;62(4):175-8.

Microbial ecology of the cystic fibrosis lung: does microflora type influence microbial loading?

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Northern Ireland Public Health Laboratory, Department of Bacteriology, Belfast City Hospital, Ireland.


This study aims to examine the association between the numbers of culturable microbial species forming the microflora of the lung in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) and microbial loading (i.e., type[s] versus numbers). Additionally, it examines qualitative combinations of the microflora present in a large adult CF centre (n=138) in order to ascertain ecological relationships between the taxa present. The culturable microflora of sputum from 34 adults patients with CF are enumerated using a spread plate technique on non-selective agar, and the microflora identified phenotypically employing the API 20NE scheme. Microbiological examination of the 34 adult patients demonstrated that their sputum contained between one and three taxa, with a mean cell density of 8.25 +/- 0.85 log colony-forming units (cfu)/g sputum and a range of 5.91-9.74 log cfu/g sputum. Most colonising patterns demonstrated only Gram-negative infection (22/34), followed by a mixed Gram-positive/Gram-negative infection pattern (10/34). Only 2/34 patients had a single Gram-positive infection. Most patients (53%) were colonised by only one organism, with 38% of patients colonised by two organisms, and the remainder (4%) colonised with three organisms. There was no statistical difference (P>0.05) between microbial cell density and the number of taxa present (i.e., the greater number of taxa present in sputum did not produce a higher cell density). However, there was a significantly higher cell density (log 0.59 cfu/g sputum) noted for those patients who had only Gram-negative infection, compared to those who had a mixed Gram-negative/Gram-positive infection pattern (P=0.02). Relatively little is known about the ecological interactions that exist between the microflora in the CF lung. Further work is required to explore these interactions in order to aid understanding of the succession and dominance of Gram-negatives in chronic chest infections. Ultimately, a greater understanding of such interactions may allow the opportunity to manipulate the ecology of the lung to control otherwise problematic pathogens.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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