Nasopharyngeal microbiota, host transcriptome, and disease severity in children with respiratory syncytial virus infection

Wouter A A De Steenhuijsen Piters, Santtu Heinonen, Raiza Hasrat, Eleonora Bunsow, Bennett Smith, Maria Carmen Suarez-Arrabal, Damien J. Chaussabel, Daniel M. Cohen, Elisabeth A M Sanders, Octavio Ramilo, Debby Bogaert, Asuncion Mejias

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101 Citations (Scopus)


Rationale: Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the leading cause of acute lower respiratory tract infections and hospitalizations in infants worldwide. Known risk factors, however, incompletely explain the variabilityofRSVdiseaseseverity,especiallyamonghealthychildren.We postulate that the severity of RSV infection is influenced by modulation of the host immune response by the local bacterial ecosystem. Objectives: To assess whether specific nasopharyngeal microbiota (clusters) are associated with distinct host transcriptome profiles and diseaseseverityinchildrenlessthan2years ofagewithRSVinfection. Methods: We characterized the nasopharyngeal microbiota profiles of young children with mild and severe RSV disease and healthy children by 16S-rRNA sequencing. In parallel, using multivariable models, we analyzed whole-blood transcriptome profiles to study the relationship between microbial community composition, the RSVinduced host transcriptional response, and clinical disease severity. Measurements and Main Results: We identified five nasopharyngeal microbiota clusters characterized by enrichment of either Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus, Corynebacterium, Moraxella, or Staphylococcus aureus. RSV infection and RSV hospitalization were positively associated with H. influenzae and Streptococcus and negatively associated with S. aureus abundance, independent of age. Children with RSV showed overexpression of IFN-related genes, independent of the microbiota cluster. In addition, transcriptome profiles of children with RSV infection and H. influenzae-and Streptococcus-dominated microbiota were characterized by greater overexpression of genes linked to Toll-like receptor and by neutrophil and macrophage activation and signaling. Conclusions: Our data suggest that interactions between RSV and nasopharyngeal microbiota might modulate the host immune response, potentially affecting clinical disease severity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1104-1115
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes



  • Disease severity
  • Microbiota
  • Nasopharynx
  • Respiratory syncytial virus
  • Transcriptome profiling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine

Cite this

De Steenhuijsen Piters, W. A. A., Heinonen, S., Hasrat, R., Bunsow, E., Smith, B., Suarez-Arrabal, M. C., Chaussabel, D. J., Cohen, D. M., Sanders, E. A. M., Ramilo, O., Bogaert, D., & Mejias, A. (2016). Nasopharyngeal microbiota, host transcriptome, and disease severity in children with respiratory syncytial virus infection. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 194(9), 1104-1115.