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ISME J. 2011 Jan;5(1):20-9. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2010.88. Epub 2010 Jul 15.

Phylogenetic and metabolic diversity of bacteria associated with cystic fibrosis.

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Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA.


In patients afflicted with cystic fibrosis (CF), morbidity and mortality are primarily associated with the adverse consequences of chronic microbial bronchial infections, which are thought to be caused by a few opportunistic pathogens. However, recent evidence suggests the presence of other microorganisms, which may significantly affect the course and outcome of the infection. Using a combination of 16S rRNA gene clone libraries, bacterial culturing and pyrosequencing of barcoded 16S rRNA amplicons, the microbial communities present in CF patient sputum samples were examined. In addition to previously recognized CF pathogens such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus, >60 phylogenetically diverse bacterial genera that are not typically associated with CF pathogenesis were also detected. A surprisingly large number of fermenting facultative and obligate anaerobes from multiple bacterial phyla was present in each sample. Many of the bacteria and sequences found were normal residents of the oropharyngeal microflora and with many containing opportunistic pathogens. Our data suggest that these undersampled organisms within the CF lung are part of a much more complex microbial ecosystem than is normally presumed. Characterization of these communities is the first step in elucidating potential roles of diverse bacteria in disease progression and to ultimately facilitate advances in CF therapy.

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