Altered gut microbiota in infants is associated with respiratory syncytial virus disease severity

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Background: Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the number one cause of lower respiratory tract infections in infants. There are still no vaccines or specific antiviral therapies against RSV, mainly due to the inadequate understanding of RSV pathogenesis. Recent data suggest a role for gut microbiota community structure in determining RSV disease severity. Our objective was to determine the gut microbial profile associated with severe RSV patients, which could be used to help identify at-risk patients and develop therapeutically protective microbial assemblages that may stimulate immuno-protection. Results: We enrolled 95 infants from Le Bonheur during the 2014 to 2016 RSV season. Of these, 37 were well-babies and 58 were hospitalized with RSV. Of the RSV infected babies, 53 remained in the pediatric ward (moderate) and 5 were moved to the pediatric intensive care unit at a later date (severe). Stool samples were collected within 72 h of admission; and the composition of gut microbiota was evaluated via 16S sequencing of fecal DNA. There was a significant enrichment in S24_7, Clostridiales, Odoribacteraceae, Lactobacillaceae, and Actinomyces in RSV (moderate and severe) vs. controls. Patients with severe RSV disease had slightly lower alpha diversity (richness and evenness of the bacterial community) of the gut microbiota compared to patients with moderate RSV and healthy controls. Beta diversity (overall microbial composition) was significantly different between all RSV patients (moderate and severe) compared to controls and had significant microbial composition separating all three groups (control, moderate RSV, and severe RSV). Conclusions: Collectively, these data demonstrate that a unique gut microbial profile is associated with RSV disease and with severe RSV disease with admission to the pediatric intensive care unit. More mechanistic experiments are needed to determine whether the differences observed in gut microbiota are the cause or consequences of severe RSV disease.




Harding, J. N., Siefker, D., Vu, L., You, D., Devincenzo, J., Pierre, J. F., & Cormier, S. A. (2020). Altered gut microbiota in infants is associated with respiratory syncytial virus disease severity. BMC Microbiology, 20(1).

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