Changes in cystic fibrosis airway microbial community associated with a severe decline in lung function

Patrizia Paganin, Ersilia Vita Fiscarelli, Vanessa Tuccio, Manuela Chiancianesi, Giovanni Bacci, Patrizia Morelli, Daniela Dolce, Claudia Dalmastri, Alessandra De Alessandri, Vincenzina Lucidi, Giovanni Taccetti, Alessio Mengoni, Annamaria Bevivino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disease resulting in chronic polymicrobial infections of the airways and progressive decline in lung function. To gain insight into the underlying causes of severe lung diseases, we aimed at comparing the airway microbiota detected in sputum of CF patients with stable lung function (S) versus those with a substantial decline in lung function (SD). Microbiota composition was investigated by using culture-based and culture-independent methods, and by performing multivariate and statistical analyses. Culture-based methods identified some microbial species associated with a worse lung function, i.e. Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Rothia mucilaginosa, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Candida albicans, but only the presence of S. pneumoniae and R. mucilaginosa was found to be associated with increased severe decline in forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1). Terminal-Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (T-RFLP) analysis revealed a higher bacterial diversity than that detected by culture-based methods. Molecular signatures with a statistically significant odds ratio for SD status were detected, and classified as Pseudomonas, Burkholderia and Shewanella, while for other Terminal Restriction Fragments (T-RFs) no species assignation was achieved. The analysis of T-RFLP data using ecological biodiversity indices showed reduced Evenness in SD patients compared to S ones, suggesting an impaired ecology of the bacterial community in SD patients. Statistically significant differences of the ecological biodiversity indices among the three sub-groups of FEV1 (normal/mild vs moderate vs severe) were also found, suggesting that the patients with moderate lung disease experienced changes in the airway assembly of taxa. Overall, changes in CF airway microbial community associated with a severe lung function decline were detected, allowing us to define some discriminatory species as well as some discriminatory T-RFs that represent good candidates for the development of predictive biomarkers of substantial decline in lung function.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0124348
JournalPLoS One
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 21 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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