Introduction and aims The role bacteria play in the development and progression of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is unclear. We used culture-independent methods to describe differences and/or similarities in microbial communities in the lower airways of patients with COPD, healthy non-smokers and smokers.
Methods Bronchial wash samples were collected from patients with COPD (GOLD 1–3; n = 18), healthy non-smokers (HV; n = 11) and healthy smokers (HS; n = 8). Samples were processed using the Illumina MiSeq platform. The Shannon-Wiener Index (SW) of diversity, lung obstruction (FEV1/FVC ratio) and ordination by Non-Metric Multidimensional Scaling (NMDS) on Bray-Curtis dissimilarity indices were analysed to evaluate how samples were related. Principal component analysis (PCA) was performed to assess the effect specific taxa had within each cohort. Characteristics of each cohort are shown in Table 1.
Results There was no difference in taxa richness between cohorts (range: 69–71; p = 0.954). Diversity (SW Index) was significantly lower in COPD samples compared to samples from HV and HS (p = 0.009 and p = 0.033, respectively). There was no significant difference between HV and HS (p = 0.186). The FEV1/FVC ratio was significantly lower for COPD compared to HV (p = 9*10–8) and HS (p = 2*10–6), respectively. NMDS analysis showed that communities belonging to either of the healthy groups were more similar to each other than they were to samples belonging to the COPD group. PCA analysis showed that members of Streptococcus sp. and Haemophilus sp. had the largest effect on the variance explained in COPD. In HS, Haemophilus sp., Fusobaterium sp., Actinomyces sp., Prevotella sp. and Veillonella sp. had the largest effect on the variance explained, while in HV Neisseria sp., Porphyromonas sp., Actinomyces sp., Atopobium sp., Prevotella and Veillonella sp. had the largest effect on the variance explained.
Conclusions The study demonstrates that microbial communities in the lower airways of patients with COPD are significantly different from that seen in healthy comparison groups. Patients with COPD had lower microbial diversity than either of the healthy comparison groups, higher relative abundance of members of Streptococcus sp. and lower relative abundance of a number of key anaerobes.