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FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol. 2012 Jul;65(2):236-44. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-695X.2011.00925.x. Epub 2012 Jan 23.

The microorganisms in chronically infected end-stage and non-end-stage cystic fibrosis patients.

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Department of Biotechnology, Chemistry, and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Science, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark.


Patients suffering from cystic fibrosis (CF) develop chronic lung infections because of highly viscous mucus, where bacteria can form biofilms. In this study, we investigated the microorganisms present in the lungs of end-stage and non-end-stage patients using standard culturing techniques and molecular methods. Tissue and sputum samples (n = 34) from explanted lungs of five end-stage patients were examined along with routine expectorates (n = 15) from 13 patients with non-end-stage CF, representing earlier stages of chronic lung infections. Previously, using peptide nucleic acid (PNA) fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), we have shown that Pseudomonas aeruginosa was the sole pathogen in end-stage CF lungs (Pediatr Pulmonol 2009, 44: 547). In this study, this tendency was supported by the results of real-time PCR, confirming previous results obtained by standard culturing and 16S rRNA gene analysis (J Clin Microbiol 2011, 49: 4352). Conversely, the non-end-stage patients were found to harbor several species by culturing. PNA FISH confirmed heterogeneous microbiota and showed that the bacteria were located in monospecies aggregates with no apparent physical interaction between the different microcolonies. In conclusion, standard culturing identifies the dominating pathogens, which seem to reside in monospecies microcolonies. The possibility of signaling between the distinct microcolonies still has to be verified and elucidated.

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