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Microbiome. 2014 Nov 3;2:40. doi: 10.1186/2049-2618-2-40. eCollection 2014.

Characterization and quantification of the fungal microbiome in serial samples from individuals with cystic fibrosis.

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Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Hanover, NH, USA.
Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA, USA ; Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.
Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA, USA.
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Section of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Lebanon, NH, USA.



Human-associated microbial communities include fungi, but we understand little about which fungal species are present, their relative and absolute abundances, and how antimicrobial therapy impacts fungal communities. The disease cystic fibrosis (CF) often involves chronic airway colonization by bacteria and fungi, and these infections cause irreversible lung damage. Fungi are detected more frequently in CF sputum samples upon initiation of antimicrobial therapy, and several studies have implicated the detection of fungi in sputum with worse outcomes. Thus, a more complete understanding of fungi in CF is required.


We characterized the fungi and bacteria in expectorated sputa from six CF subjects. Samples were collected upon admission for systemic antibacterial therapy and upon the completion of treatment and analyzed using a pyrosequencing-based analysis of fungal internal transcribed spacer 1 (ITS1) and bacterial 16S rDNA sequences. A mixture of Candida species and Malassezia dominated the mycobiome in all samples (74%-99% of fungal reads). There was not a striking trend correlating fungal and bacterial richness, and richness showed a decline after antibiotic therapy particularly for the bacteria. The fungal communities within a sputum sample resembled other samples from that subject despite the aggressive antibacterial therapy. Quantitative PCR analysis of fungal 18S rDNA sequences to assess fungal burden showed variation in fungal density in sputum before and after antibacterial therapy but no consistent directional trend. Analysis of Candida ITS1 sequences amplified from sputum or pure culture-derived genomic DNA from individual Candida species found little (<0.5%) or no variation in ITS1 sequences within or between strains, thereby validating this locus for the purpose of Candida species identification. We also report the enhancement of the publically available Visualization and Analysis of Microbial Population Structures (VAMPS) tool for the analysis of fungal communities in clinical samples.


Fungi are present in CF respiratory sputum. In CF, the use of intravenous antibiotic therapy often does not profoundly impact bacterial community structure, and we observed a similar stability in fungal species composition. Further studies are required to predict the effects of antibacterials on fungal burden in CF and fungal community stability in non-CF populations.

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