In children, the microbiota of the nasopharynx and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid are both similar and different

Kirsten M. Kloepfer, Ashley R. Deschamp, Sydney E. Ross, Stacey L. Peterson-Carmichael, Christopher M. Hemmerich, Douglas B. Rusch, Stephanie D. Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Rationale: Sputum and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) are often obtained to elucidate the lower airway microbiota in adults. Acquiring sputum samples from children is difficult and obtaining samples via bronchoscopy in children proves challenging due to the need for anesthesia and specialized procedural expertise; therefore nasopharyngeal (NP) swabs are often used as surrogates when investigating the pediatric airway microbiota. In adults, the airway microbiota differs significantly between NP and BALF samples however, minimal data exist in children. Objectives: To compare NP and BALF samples in children undergoing clinically indicated bronchoscopy. Methods: NP and BALF samples were collected during clinically indicated bronchoscopy. Bacterial DNA was extracted from 72 samples (36 NP/BALF pairs); the bacterial V1-V3 region of the 16S rRNA gene was amplified and sequenced on the Illumina Miseq platform. Analysis was performed using mothur software. Results: Compared to NP samples, BALF had increased richness and diversity. Similarity between paired NP and BALF (intra-subject) samples was greater than inter-subject samples (P = 0.0006). NP samples contained more Actinobacteria (2.2% vs 21%; adjusted P = 1.4 × 10 −6 ), while BALF contained more Bacteroidetes (29.5% vs 3.2%; adjusted P = 1.2 × 10 −9 ). At the genus level several differences existed, however Streptococcus abundance was similar in both sample types (NP 37.3% vs BAL 36.1%; adjusted P = 0.8). Conclusion: Our results provide evidence that NP samples can be used to distinguish differences between children, but the relative abundance of organisms may differ between the nasopharynx and lower airway in pediatric patients. Studies utilizing NP samples as surrogates for the lower airway should be interpreted with caution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)475-482
Number of pages8
JournalPediatric Pulmonology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • bronchoalveolar lavage fluid
  • microbiota
  • nasopharyngeal swabs
  • pediatric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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