Viral respiratory infections and the oropharyngeal bacterial microbiota in acutely wheezing children

Leah Cuthbertson, Stephen W.C. Oo, Michael J. Cox, Siew Kim Khoo, Des W. Cox, Glenys Chidlow, Kimberley Franks, Franciska Prastanti, Meredith L. Borland, James E. Gern, David W. Smith, Joelene A. Bizzintino, Ingrid A. Laing, Peter N. Le Souëf, Miriam F. Moffatt, William O.C. Cookson

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13 Citations (Web of Science)


Acute viral wheeze in children is a major cause of hospitalisation and a major risk factor for the development of asthma. However, the role of the respiratory tract microbiome in the development of acute wheeze is unclear. To investigate whether severe wheezing episodes in children are associated with bacterial dysbiosis in the respiratory tract, oropharyngeal swabs were collected from 109 children with acute wheezing attending the only tertiary paediatric hospital in Perth, Australia. The bacterial community from these samples was explored using next generation sequencing and compared to samples from 75 non-wheezing controls. No significant difference in bacterial diversity was observed between samples from those with wheeze and healthy controls. Within the wheezing group, attendance at kindergarten or preschool was however, associated with increased bacterial diversity. Rhinovirus (RV) infection did not have a significant effect on bacterial community composition. A significant difference in bacterial richness was observed between children with RV-A and RV-C infection, however this is likely due to the differences in age group between the patient cohorts. The bacterial community within the oropharynx was found to be diverse and heterogeneous. Age and attendance at day care or kindergarten were important factors in driving bacterial diversity. However, wheeze and viral infection were not found to significantly relate to the bacterial community. Bacterial airway microbiome is highly variable in early life and its role in wheeze remains less clear than viral influences.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0223990
JournalPLoS One
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


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