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Microbiome. 2014 Apr 28;2:14. doi: 10.1186/2049-2618-2-14. eCollection 2014.

The microbiome in pediatric cystic fibrosis patients: the role of shared environment suggests a window of intervention.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, 615 Remsen Building, N. College St., Hanover, NH 03755, USA.
Division of Pediatric Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, 350 Hanes House, DUMC Box 102360, Durham NC, USA.
McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 1800 Orleans St., Baltimore MD, USA.
Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution, Marine Biological Laboratory, 7 MBL Street, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA.
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, 202 Remsen Building, N. College St., Hanover, NH 03755, USA.



Cystic fibrosis (CF) is caused by mutations in the CFTR gene that predispose the airway to infection. Chronic infection by pathogens such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa leads to inflammation that gradually degrades lung function, resulting in morbidity and early mortality. In a previous study of CF monozygotic twins, we demonstrate that genetic modifiers significantly affect the establishment of persistent P. aeruginosa colonization in CF. Recognizing that bacteria other than P. aeruginosa contribute to the CF microbiome and associated pathology, we used deep sequencing of sputum from pediatric monozygotic twins and nontwin siblings with CF to characterize pediatric bacterial communities and the role that genetics plays in their evolution.


We found that the microbial communities in sputum from pediatric patients living together were much more alike than those from pediatric individuals living apart, regardless of whether samples were taken from monozygous twins or from nontwin CF siblings living together, which we used as a proxy for dizygous twins. In contrast, adult communities were comparatively monolithic and much less diverse than the microbiome of pediatric patients.


Taken together, these data and other recent studies suggest that as patients age, the CF microbiome becomes less diverse, more refractory to treatment and dominated by mucoid P. aeruginosa, as well as being associated with accelerated pulmonary decline. Our studies show that the microbiome of pediatric patients is susceptible to environmental influences, suggesting that interventions to preserve the community structure found in young CF patients might be possible, perhaps slowing disease progression.


Cystic fibrosis; Microbiome; Pseudomonas aeruginosa; Sputum

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