Beware of pharyngeal Fusobacterium nucleatum in COVID-19

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Background: Fusobacterium nucleatum (F. n) is an important opportunistic pathogen causing oral and gastrointestinal disease. Faecalibacterium prausnitzii (F. p) is a next-generation probiotic and could serve as a biomarker of gut eubiosis/dysbiosis to some extent. Alterations in the human oral and gut microbiomes are associated with viral respiratory infection. The aim of this study was to characterise the oral and fecal bacterial biomarker (i.e., F. n and F. p) in COVID-19 patients by qPCR and investigate the pharyngeal microbiome of COVID-19 patients through metagenomic next-generation sequencing (mNGS). Results: Pharyngeal F. n was significantly increased in COVID-19 patients, and it was higher in male than female patients. Increased abundance of pharyngeal F. n was associated with a higher risk of a positive SARS-CoV-2 test (adjusted OR = 1.32, 95% CI = 1.06 ~ 1.65, P < 0.05). A classifier to distinguish COVID-19 patients from the healthy controls based on the pharyngeal F. n was constructed and achieved an area under the curve (AUC) of 0.843 (95% CI = 0.688 ~ 0.940, P < 0.001). However, the level of fecal F. n and fecal F. p remained unaltered between groups. Besides, mNGS showed that the pharyngeal swabs of COVID-19 patients were dominated by opportunistic pathogens. Conclusions: Pharyngeal but not fecal F. n was significantly increased in COVID-19 patients, clinicians should pay careful attention to potential coinfection. Pharyngeal F. n may serve as a promising candidate indicator for COVID-19.




Bao, L., Zhang, C., Lyu, J., Yan, C., Cao, R., Pan, M., & Li, Y. (2021). Beware of pharyngeal Fusobacterium nucleatum in COVID-19. BMC Microbiology, 21(1).

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