Ecological patterns and processes of temporal turnover within lung infection microbiota

Helen Gavillet, Lauren Hatfield, Andrew Jones, Anirban Maitra, Alexander Horsley, Damian Rivett*, Chris van der Gast*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Chronic infection and consequent airway inflammation are the leading causes of morbidity and early mortality for people living with cystic fibrosis (CF). However, lower airway infections across a range of chronic respiratory diseases, including in CF, do not follow classical ‘one microbe, one disease’ concepts of infection pathogenesis. Instead, they are comprised of diverse and temporally dynamic lung infection microbiota. Consequently, temporal dynamics need to be considered when attempting to associate lung microbiota with changes in disease status. Set within an island biogeography framework, we aimed to determine the ecological patterns and processes of temporal turnover within the lung microbiota of 30 paediatric and adult CF patients prospectively sampled over a 3-year period. Moreover, we aimed to ascertain the contributions of constituent chronic and intermittent colonizers on turnover within the wider microbiota.

The lung microbiota within individual patients was partitioned into constituent chronic and intermittent colonizing groups using the Leeds criteria and visualised with persistence-abundance relationships. This revealed bacteria chronically infecting a patient were both persistent and common through time, whereas intermittently infecting taxa were infrequent and rare; respectively representing the resident and transient portions of the wider microbiota. It also indicated that the extent of chronic colonization was far greater than could be appreciated with microbiological culture alone. Using species-time relationships to measure temporal turnover and Vellend’s rationalized ecological processes demonstrated turnover in the resident chronic infecting groups was conserved and underpinned principally by the deterministic process of homogenizing dispersal. Conversely, intermittent colonizing groups, representing newly arrived immigrants and transient species, drove turnover in the wider microbiota and were predominately underpinned by the stochastic process of drift. For adult patients, homogenizing dispersal and drift were found to be significantly associated with lung function. Where a greater frequency of homogenizing dispersal was observed with worsening lung function and conversely drift increased with better lung function.

Our work provides a novel ecological framework for understanding the temporal dynamics of polymicrobial infection in CF that has translational potential to guide and improve therapeutic targeting of lung microbiota in CF and across a range of chronic airway diseases.
Original languageEnglish
Article number63
Number of pages13
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2024

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