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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Dec 18;104(51):20529-33. Epub 2007 Dec 11.

Molecular identification of bacteria in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid from children with cystic fibrosis.

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Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309, USA.


Culture of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) is the gold standard for detection of pathogens in the lower airways in cystic fibrosis (CF). However, current culture results do not explain all clinical observations in CF, including negative culture results during pulmonary exacerbation and inflammation in the absence of pathogens. We hypothesize that organisms not routinely identified by culture occur in the CF airway and may contribute to disease. To test this hypothesis we used a culture-independent molecular approach, based on use of rRNA sequence analysis, to assess the bacterial composition of BALF from children with CF and disease controls (DC). Specimens from 42 subjects (28 CF) were examined, and approximately 6,600 total clones were screened to identify 121 species of bacteria. In general, a single rRNA type dominated clone libraries from CF specimens, but not DC. Thirteen CF subjects contained bacteria that are not routinely assessed by culture. In four CF subjects, candidate pathogens were identified and include the anaerobe Prevotella denticola, a Lysobacter sp., and members of the Rickettsiales. The presumptive pathogens Tropheryma whipplei and Granulicatella elegans were identified in cases from the DC group. The presence of unexpected bacteria in CF may explain inflammation without documented pathogens and consequent failure to respond to standard treatment. These results show that molecular techniques provide a broader perspective on airway bacteria than do routine clinical cultures and thus can identify targets for further clinical evaluation.

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