Asthma-associated differences in microbial composition of induced sputum

Pradeep Reddy Marri, Debra A. Stern, Anne L. Wright, Dean Billheimer, Fernando D. Martinez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

242 Scopus citations


Background: It is increasingly evident that microbial colonization of the respiratory tract might have a role in the pathogenesis of asthma. Objective: We sought to characterize and compare the microbiome of induced sputum in asthmatic and nonasthmatic adults. Methods: Induced sputum samples were obtained from 10 nonasthmatic subjects and 10 patients with mild active asthma (8/10 were not using inhaled corticosteroids). Total DNA was extracted from sputum supernatants and amplified by using primers specific for the V6 hypervariable region of bacterial 16s rRNA. Samples were barcoded, and equimolar concentrations of 20 samples were pooled and sequenced with the 454 GS FLX sequencer. Sequences were assigned to bacterial taxa by comparing them with 16s rRNA sequences in the Ribosomal Database Project. Results: All sputum samples contained 5 major bacterial phyla: Firmicutes, Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria, Fusobacterium, and Bacteroidetes, with the first 3 phyla accounting for more than 90% of the total sequences. Proteobacteria were present in higher proportions in asthmatic patients (37% vs 15%, P < .001). In contrast, Firmicutes (47% vs 63%, P = .17) and Actinobacteria (10% vs 14%, P = .36) were found more frequently in samples from nonasthmatic subjects, although this was not statistically significant. Hierarchical clustering produced 2 significant clusters: one contained primarily asthmatic samples and the second contained primarily nonasthmatic samples. In addition, samples from asthmatic patients had greater bacterial diversity compared with samples from nonasthmatic subjects. Conclusion: Patients with mild asthma have an altered microbial composition in the respiratory tract that is similar to that observed in patients with more severe asthma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)346-352.e3
JournalJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2013


  • Asthma
  • Proteobacteria
  • metagenomics
  • microbiome
  • sputum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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