Rationale The nasopharyngeal (NP) microbiota of newborns and infants plays a key role in modulating airway inflammation and respiratory symptoms during viral infections. Premature (PM) birth modifies the early NP environment and is a major risk factor for severe viral respiratory infections. However, it is currently unknown if the NP microbiota of PM infants is altered relative to full-term (FT) individuals.
Objectives To characterize the NP microbiota differences in preterm and FT infants during rhinovirus (RV) infection.
Methods We determined the NP microbiota of infants 6 months to ≤2 years of age born FT (n=6) or severely PM<32 weeks gestation (n=7). We compared microbiota composition in healthy NP samples and performed a longitudinal analysis during naturally occurring RV infections to contrast the microbiota dynamics in PM versus FT infants.
Results We observed significant differences in the NP bacterial community of PM versus FT. NP from PM infants had higher within-group dissimilarity (heterogeneity) relative to FT infants. Bacterial composition of NP samples from PM infants showed increased Proteobacteria and decreased in Firmicutes. There were also differences in the major taxonomic groups identified, including Streptococcus, Moraxella, and Haemophilus. Longitudinal data showed that these prematurity-related microbiota features persisted during RV infection.
Conclusions PM is associated with NP microbiota changes beyond the neonatal stage. PM infants have an NP microbiota with high heterogeneity relative to FT infants. These prematurity-related microbiota features persisted during RV infection, suggesting that the NP microbiota of PM may play an important role in modulating airway inflammatory and immune responses in this vulnerable group.
Work partially supported by Parsons Foundation Grant; grant numbers NHLBI/HL090020 (K12 Genomics of Lung), NICHC/HD001399 (K12 Child Health Research Career Development Award), UL1TR000075 KL2TR000076. Awards from the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences and K12 Career Development Program K12HL119994, the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (award numbers UL1TR001876 and KL2TR001877).
Funding Parsons Foundation Grant, K12 Genomics of Lung, NHLBI/HL090020, K12 Child Health Research Career Development Award, NICHC/HD001399.
Competing interests None declared.
Ethics approval Institutional IRB.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.