April 25, 2023

COVID alters respiratory microbiota

COVID-19 infection alters the microbes of the upper respiratory tract for at least several weeks, and such disturbances could impact disease severity and be targets for therapeutic interventions.

The microbes that live in our upper respiratory tract (URT microbiota) play a role in respiratory health. Disturbances of the URT microbiota during respiratory infections can impact disease severity, immune response, and even development of chronic lung diseases such as asthma. 

Justin Turner, MD, PhD, Suman Das, PhD, and colleagues used ribosomal RNA gene sequencing to analyze the URT microbiota in serial nasal swab samples over 21 days from adults with mild-to-moderate COVID-19. 

Compared to samples from asymptomatic, uninfected adults, they found that people with COVID-19 had lower microbiota species diversity and altered abundance of several species: reductions in Corynebacterium, Frederiksenia canicola and Lactobacillus, and increased abundance of Neisseriaceae.  

The findings, reported in Microbial Genomics, show that mild-to-moderate COVID-19 alters the URT microbiota for at least several weeks following initial infection. Larger studies are needed to explore whether URT microbial disturbances impact COVID-19 severity and might be a target for therapeutic interventions, the authors note.

Other authors of the Microbial Genomics report include Christian Rosas-Salazar, MD, MPH, Kyle Kimura, MD, Meghan Shilts, MS, Britton Strickland, MS, Michael Freeman, MD, Bronson Wessinger, MD, Veerain Gupta, MD, Hunter Brown, Helen Boone, and Seesandra Rajagopala, PhD. 

The research was supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health (grants AI142321, AI154016, AI149262, HL148638, HL146401), and Vanderbilt Technologies for Advanced Genomics Core (supported by NIH grants RR024975, CA068485, EY008126, RR030956).