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J Infect Dis. 2007 Jan 1;195(1):81-9. Epub 2006 Nov 27.

Haemophilus haemolyticus: a human respiratory tract commensal to be distinguished from Haemophilus influenzae.

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Department of Medicine, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, Buffalo, NY, USA.



Haemophilus influenzae is a common pathogen in adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In a prospective study, selected isolates of apparent H. influenzae had an altered phenotype. We tested the hypothesis that these variant strains were genetically different from typical H. influenzae.


A prospective study of adults with COPD was conducted. Strains of apparent H. influenzae obtained from a range of clinical sources were evaluated by ribosomal DNA sequence analysis, multilocus sequence analysis, DNA-DNA hybridization, and sequencing of the conserved P6 gene.


Variant strains were determined to be Haemophilus haemolyticus by means of 4 independent methods. Analysis of 490 apparent H. influenzae strains, identified by standard methods, revealed that 39.5% of sputum isolates and 27.3% of nasopharyngeal isolates were H. haemolyticus. Isolates obtained from normally sterile sites were all H. influenzae. In a prospective study, acquisitions of new strains of H. haemolyticus were not associated with exacerbations of COPD, whereas 45% of acquisitions of new strains of H. influenzae were associated with exacerbations.


Standard methods do not reliably distinguish H. haemolyticus from H. influenzae. H. haemolyticus is a respiratory tract commensal. The recognition that some strains of apparent H. influenzae are H. haemolyticus substantially strengthens the association of true H. influenzae with clinical infection.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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