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Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways where bacteria may act as protagonists of chronic inflammation. Little is known about the relation of airway inflammation to the presence of specific bacterial taxa. We sought to describe the sputum microbiome in adults with poorly controlled asthma.DNA was extracted from induced sputum and microbial communities were profiled using 16S rRNA pyrosequencing. Bacterial species were characterised, and the relationship between microbial populations, asthma inflammatory subtypes and other covariates was explored. Real-time PCR was used to identify Tropheryma whipplei and Haemophilus influenzae in sputum.Adults with neutrophilic asthma had reduced bacterial diversity and species richness. Tropheryma was identified and confirmed with real-time PCR in 12 (40%) participants. Haemophilus occurred most often in a group of younger atopic males with an increased proportion of neutrophils. PCR confirmed the presence of H. influenzae in 35 (76%) participants with poorly controlled asthma.There are phenotype-specific alterations to the airway microbiome in asthma. Reduced bacterial diversity combined with a high prevalence of H. influenzae was observed in neutrophilic asthma, whereas eosinophilic asthma had abundant T. whipplei.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur Respir J

Publication Date





792 - 800


Adult, Aged, Asthma, Dysbiosis, Female, Haemophilus influenzae, Humans, Inflammation, Linear Models, Male, Microbiota, Middle Aged, Neutrophils, Pulmonary Eosinophilia, RNA, Ribosomal, 16S, Respiratory System, Sputum, Tropheryma