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1.  The human microbiome and juvenile idiopathic arthritis 
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is the most common rheumatic disease in childhood. The pathogenesis of JIA is thought to be the result of a combination of host genetic and environmental triggers. However, the precise factors that determine one’s susceptibility to JIA remain to be unravelled. The microbiome has received increasing attention as a potential contributing factor to the development of a wide array of immune-mediated diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Also in JIA, there is accumulating evidence that the composition of the microbiome is different from healthy individuals. A growing body of evidence indeed suggests that, among others, the microbiome may influence the development of the immune system, the integrity of the intestinal mucosal barrier, and the differentiation of T cell subsets. In turn, this might lead to dysregulation of the immune system, thereby possibly playing a role in the development of JIA. The potential to manipulate the microbiome, for example by faecal microbial transplantation, might then offer perspectives for future therapeutic interventions. Before we can think of such interventions, we need to first obtain a deeper understanding of the cause and effect relationship between JIA and the microbiome. In this review, we discuss the existing evidence for the involvement of the microbiome in JIA pathogenesis and explore the potential mechanisms through which the microbiome may influence the development of autoimmunity in general and JIA specifically.
PMCID: PMC5028952  PMID: 27650128
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis; Microbiome; Microbiota; Dysbiosis; Autoimmunity
2.  The role of the local microbial ecosystem in respiratory health and disease 
Respiratory tract infections are a major global health concern, accounting for high morbidity and mortality, especially in young children and elderly individuals. Traditionally, highly common bacterial respiratory tract infections, including otitis media and pneumonia, were thought to be caused by a limited number of pathogens including Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae. However, these pathogens are also frequently observed commensal residents of the upper respiratory tract (URT) and form—together with harmless commensal bacteria, viruses and fungi—intricate ecological networks, collectively known as the ‘microbiome’. Analogous to the gut microbiome, the respiratory microbiome at equilibrium is thought to be beneficial to the host by priming the immune system and providing colonization resistance, while an imbalanced ecosystem might predispose to bacterial overgrowth and development of respiratory infections. We postulate that specific ecological perturbations of the bacterial communities in the URT can occur in response to various lifestyle or environmental effectors, leading to diminished colonization resistance, loss of containment of newly acquired or resident pathogens, preluding bacterial overgrowth, ultimately resulting in local or systemic bacterial infections. Here, we review the current body of literature regarding niche-specific upper respiratory microbiota profiles within human hosts and the changes occurring within these profiles that are associated with respiratory infections.
PMCID: PMC4528492  PMID: 26150660
microbiome; upper respiratory tract; bacterial interaction; colonization resistance; pathogenesis; respiratory infections
3.  Development of Upper Respiratory Tract Microbiota in Infancy is Affected by Mode of Delivery 
EBioMedicine  2016;9:336-345.
Birth by Caesarian section is associated with short- and long-term respiratory morbidity. We hypothesized that mode of delivery affects the development of the respiratory microbiota, thereby altering its capacity to provide colonization resistance and consecutive pathobiont overgrowth and infections. Therefore, we longitudinally studied the impact of mode of delivery on the nasopharyngeal microbiota development from birth until six months of age in a healthy, unselected birth cohort of 102 children (n = 761 samples). Here, we show that the respiratory microbiota develops within one day from a variable mixed bacterial community towards a Streptococcus viridans-predominated profile, regardless of mode of delivery. Within the first week, rapid niche differentiation had occurred; initially with in most infants Staphylococcus aureus predominance, followed by differentiation towards Corynebacterium pseudodiphteriticum/propinquum, Dolosigranulum pigrum, Moraxella catarrhalis/nonliquefaciens, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and/or Haemophilus influenzae dominated communities. Infants born by Caesarian section showed a delay in overall development of respiratory microbiota profiles with specifically reduced colonization with health-associated commensals like Corynebacterium and Dolosigranulum, thereby possibly influencing respiratory health later in life.
•The respiratory microbiota is highly dynamic during the first six months of life.•The microbiota develops rapidly from a maternal/environmental-derived flora towards several niche-specific profiles.•Mode of delivery affects early respiratory microbiota development, especially colonization of potential protective commensals.
Birth by Caesarian section is associated with increased prevalence of respiratory diseases. We hypothesized that mode of delivery affects the micro-community of bacteria residing in the respiratory tract (microbiota), thereby influencing its ability to prevent invasion and outgrowth of potential pathogenic bacteria that can cause respiratory disease. We followed children during their first six months of life and show that the microbiota develops rapidly from a maternal/environmental-derived flora towards several niche-specific microbial profiles. Mode of delivery significantly affects respiratory microbiota development and interacts with breastfeeding, especially regarding the early presence of potential protective bacteria, which may contribute to respiratory health later in life.
PMCID: PMC4972531  PMID: 27333043
Microbiota; Microbiome; Mode of delivery; Caesarian section; Respiratory tract; Respiratory tract infection
4.  Molecular surveillance of nasopharyngeal carriage of Streptococcus pneumoniae in children vaccinated with conjugated polysaccharide pneumococcal vaccines 
Scientific Reports  2016;6:23809.
Following the introduction of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCVs) for infants, surveillance studies on Streptococcus pneumoniae carriage have proven valuable for monitoring vaccine effects. Here, we compared molecular versus conventional diagnostic methods in prospective cross-sectional surveillances in vaccinated infants in the Netherlands. Nasopharyngeal samples (n = 1169) from 11- and 24-month-old children, collected during autumn/winter 2010/2011 and 2012/2013, were tested by conventional culture for S. pneumoniae. DNA extracted from all culture-plate growth was tested by qPCR for pneumococcal-specific genes (lytA/piaB) and selected serotypes (including PCV13-serotypes). qPCR significantly increased the number of carriers detected compared to culture (69% vs. 57%, p < 0.0001). qPCR assays targeting vaccine-serotypes 4 and 5 proved non-specific (results excluded). For serotypes reliably targeted by qPCR, the number of serotype-carriage events detected by qPCR (n = 709) was 1.68× higher compared to culture (n = 422). There was a strong correlation (rho = 0.980; p < 0.0001) between the number of serotypes detected using qPCR and by culture. This study demonstrates the high potential of molecular methods in pneumococcal surveillances, particularly for enhanced serotype detection. We found no evidence of a hidden circulation of vaccine-targeted serotypes, despite vaccine-serotypes still significantly contributing to invasive pneumococcal disease in unvaccinated individuals, supporting the presence of a substantial S. pneumoniae reservoir outside vaccinated children.
PMCID: PMC4820691  PMID: 27046258
5.  Dried Saliva Spots: A Robust Method for Detecting Streptococcus pneumoniae Carriage by PCR 
The earliest studies in the late 19th century on Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumoniae) carriage used saliva as the primary specimen. However, interest in saliva declined after the sensitive mouse inoculation method was replaced by conventional culture, which made isolation of pneumococci from the highly polymicrobial oral cavity virtually impossible. Here, we tested the feasibility of using dried saliva spots (DSS) for studies on pneumococcal carriage. Saliva samples from children and pneumococcus-spiked saliva samples from healthy adults were applied to paper, dried, and stored, with and without desiccant, at temperatures ranging from −20 to 37 °C for up to 35 days. DNA extracted from DSS was tested with quantitative-PCR (qPCR) specifically for S. pneumoniae. When processed immediately after drying, the quantity of pneumococcal DNA detected in spiked DSS from adults matched the levels in freshly spiked raw saliva. Furthermore, pneumococcal DNA was stable in DSS stored with desiccant for up to one month over a broad range of temperatures. There were no differences in the results when spiking saliva with varied pneumococcal strains. The collection of saliva can be a particularly useful in surveillance studies conducted in remote settings, as it does not require trained personnel, and DSS are resilient to various transportation conditions.
PMCID: PMC4813204  PMID: 26959014
pneumococcus; colonization; surveillance; saliva; dried spots; upper respiratory tract
6.  Unraveling the Molecular Mechanisms Underlying the Nasopharyngeal Bacterial Community Structure 
mBio  2016;7(1):e00009-16.
The upper respiratory tract is colonized by a diverse array of commensal bacteria that harbor potential pathogens, such as Streptococcus pneumoniae. As long as the local microbial ecosystem—also called “microbiome”—is in balance, these potentially pathogenic bacterial residents cause no harm to the host. However, similar to macrobiological ecosystems, when the bacterial community structure gets perturbed, potential pathogens can overtake the niche and cause mild to severe infections. Recent studies using next-generation sequencing show that S. pneumoniae, as well as other potential pathogens, might be kept at bay by certain commensal bacteria, including Corynebacterium and Dolosigranulum spp. Bomar and colleagues are the first to explore a specific biological mechanism contributing to the antagonistic interaction between Corynebacterium accolens and S. pneumoniae in vitro [L. Bomar, S. D. Brugger, B. H. Yost, S. S. Davies, K. P. Lemon, mBio 7(1):e01725-15, 2016, doi:10.1128/mBio.01725-15]. The authors comprehensively show that C. accolens is capable of hydrolyzing host triacylglycerols into free fatty acids, which display antipneumococcal properties, suggesting that these bacteria might contribute to the containment of pneumococcus. This work exemplifies how molecular epidemiological findings can lay the foundation for mechanistic studies to elucidate the host-microbe and microbial interspecies interactions underlying the bacterial community structure. Next, translation of these results to an in vivo setting seems necessary to unveil the magnitude and importance of the observed effect in its natural, polymicrobial setting.
PMCID: PMC4742699  PMID: 26838716
7.  Carriage of Streptococcus pneumoniae in Aged Adults with Influenza-Like-Illness 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(3):e0119875.
Incidence of pneumococcal disease is disproportionally high in infants and elderly. Nasopharyngeal colonisation by Streptococcus pneumoniae is considered a prerequisite for disease but unlike in children, carriage in elderly is rarely detected. Here, we tested for S. pneumoniae in nasopharyngeal and saliva samples collected from community-dwelling elderly with influenza-like-illness (ILI). Trans-nasal nasopharyngeal, trans-oral nasopharyngeal and saliva samples (n = 270 per sample type) were collected during winter/spring 2011/2012 from 135 persons aged 60–89 at onset of ILI and 7–9 weeks later following recovery. After samples were tested for pneumococci by conventional culture, all plate growth was collected. DNA extracted from plate harvests was tested by quantitative-PCRs (qPCR) specific for S. pneumoniae and serotypes included in the 13-valent pneumococcal conjugated vaccine (PCV13). Pneumococci were cultured from 14 of 135 (10%) elderly with none of the sampled niches showing superiority in carriage detection. With 76/270 (28%) saliva, 31/270 (11%) trans-oral and 13/270 (5%) trans-nasal samples positive by qPCR, saliva was superior to nasopharyngeal swabs (p<0.001) in qPCR-based carriage detection. Overall, from all methods used in the study, 65 of 135 (48%) elderly carried pneumococci at least once and 26 (19%) at both study time points. The difference between carriage prevalence at ILI (n = 49 or 36%) versus recovery (n = 42 or 31%) was not significant (p = 0.38). At least 23 of 91 (25%) carriage events in 19 of 65 (29%) carriers were associated with PCV13-serotypes. We detected a large reservoir of pneumococci in saliva of elderly, with PCV13-serotype distribution closely resembling the contemporary carriage of serotypes reported in the Netherlands for PCV-vaccinated infants.
PMCID: PMC4366201  PMID: 25789854
8.  Serotype Distribution and Antibiotic Susceptibility of Streptococcus pneumoniae Strains Carried by Children Infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e110526.
We studied the serotype distribution and antibiotic susceptibility of Streptococcus pneumoniae isolates carried by children infected with HIV in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Nasopharyngeal swabs were collected from 90 HIV infected children aged 4 to 144 months. S. pneumoniae was identified by conventional and molecular methods. Serotyping was performed with sequential multiplex PCR and antibiotic susceptibility with the disk diffusion method.
We identified S. pneumoniae carriage in 41 children (46%). Serotype 19F was most common among 42 cultured strains (19%) followed by 19A and 6A/B (10% each), and 23F (7%). Most isolates were susceptible to chloramphenicol (86%), followed by clindamycin (79%), erythromycin (76%), tetracycline (43%), and sulphamethoxazole/trimethoprim (41%). Resistance to penicillin was most common with only 33% of strains being susceptible. Strains of serotypes targeted by the 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate polysaccharide vaccine (PCV13) were more likely to be multidrug resistant (13 of 25 or 52%) compared to non-PCV13 serotype isolates (3 of 17 or 18%; Fisher exact test p = 0.05).
Our study provides insight into the epidemiology of pneumococcal carriage in young HIV patients in Indonesia. These findings may facilitate potential preventive strategies that target invasive pneumococcal disease in Indonesia.
PMCID: PMC4208773  PMID: 25343448
9.  Respiratory Microbiota Dynamics following Streptococcus pneumoniae Acquisition in Young and Elderly Mice 
Infection and Immunity  2014;82(4):1725-1731.
The upper respiratory tract (URT) is a distinct microbial niche of low-density bacterial communities and, also, a portal of entry for many potential pathogens, including Streptococcus pneumoniae. Thus far, animal models have been used to study the dynamics of and interactions between limited numbers of different species in the URT. Here, we applied a deep sequencing approach to explore, for the first time, the impact of S. pneumoniae acquisition on URT microbiota in a mouse model, as well as potential age-dependent effects. Young-adult and elderly mice were inoculated intranasally with S. pneumoniae, and nasal lavage samples were collected for up to 28 days postcolonization. Bacterial DNA extracted from lavage samples was subjected to barcoded pyrosequencing of the V5-to-V7 hypervariable region of the small-subunit rRNA gene. We observed highly diverse microbial profiles, with the presence overall of 15 phyla and approximately 645 operational taxonomic units (OTUs). We noted differences in the composition of microbiota between young and elderly mice, with a significantly higher abundance of Bacteroidetes in the young mice. The introduction of S. pneumoniae into the URT led to a temporary dominance of pneumococci in the microbiota of all mice, accompanied by a significant decrease in microbial diversity. As mice gradually cleared the colonization, the diversity returned to baseline levels. Diversification was accompanied by an early expansion of Bacteroidetes, Staphylococcus spp., and Lachnospiraceae. Moreover, the Bacteroidetes expansion was significantly greater in young-adult than in elderly mice. In conclusion, we observed differences in URT microbiota composition between naive young-adult and elderly mice that were associated with differences in pneumococcal clearance over time.
PMCID: PMC3993406  PMID: 24516113
10.  Streptococcus pneumoniae in Saliva of Dutch Primary School Children 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e102045.
While nasopharyngeal sampling is the gold standard for the detection of Streptococcus pneumoniae carriage, historically seen, saliva sampling also seems highly sensitive for pneumococcal detection. We investigated S. pneumoniae carriage in saliva from fifty schoolchildren by conventional and molecular methods. Saliva was first culture-enriched for pneumococci, after which, DNA was extracted from all bacterial growth and tested by quantitative-PCR (qPCR) for pneumococcus-specific genes lytA and piaA. Next, serotype composition of the samples was determined by serotype-specific qPCRs, conventional-PCRs (cPCR) and sequencing of cPCR amplicons. Although only 2 (4%) of 50 samples were positive by conventional diagnostic culture, 44 (88%) were positive for pneumococci by qPCR. In total, we detected the presence of at least 81 pneumococcal strains representing 20 serotypes in samples from 44 carriers with 23 carriers (52%) positive for multiple (up to 6) serotypes. The number of serotypes detected per sample correlated with pneumococcal abundance. This study shows that saliva could be used as a tool for future pneumococcal surveillance studies. Furthermore, high rates of pneumococcal carriage and co-carriage of multiple pneumococcal strains together with a large number of serotypes in circulation suggests a ubiquitous presence of S. pneumoniae in saliva of school-aged children. Our results also suggest that factors promoting pneumococcal carriage within individual hosts may weaken competitive interactions between S. pneumoniae strains.
PMCID: PMC4094488  PMID: 25013895
11.  Impact of early daycare on healthcare resource use related to upper respiratory tract infections during childhood: prospective WHISTLER cohort study 
BMC Medicine  2014;12:107.
Daycare attendance is an established risk factor for upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) and acute otitis media (AOM). Whether this results in higher use of healthcare resources during childhood remains unknown. We aim to assess the effect of first year daycare attendance on the timing and use of healthcare resources for URTI and AOM episodes during early childhood.
In the Wheezing-Illnesses-STudy-LEidsche-Rijn birth cohort, 2,217 children were prospectively followed up to age six years. Children were categorized according to first-year daycare attendance (yes versus no) and age at entry when applicable (age 0 to 2 months, 3 to 5 months and 6 to 12 months). Information on general practitioner (GP) diagnosed URTI and AOM, GP consultations, antibiotic prescriptions and specialist referral was collected from medical records. Daycare attendance was recorded by monthly questionnaires during the first year of life.
First-year daycare attendees and non-attendees had similar total six-year rates of GP-diagnosed URTI and AOM episodes (59/100 child-years, 95% confidence interval 57 to 61 versus 56/100 child-years, 53 to 59). Daycare attendees had more GP-diagnosed URTI and AOM episodes before the age of one year and fewer beyond the age of four years than non-attendees (Pinteraction <0.001). Daycare attendees had higher total six-year rates for GP consultation (adjusted rate ratio 1.15, 1.00 to 1.31) and higher risk for specialist referrals (hazard ratio: 1.43, 1.01 to 2.03). The number of antibiotic prescriptions in the first six years of life was only significantly increased among children who entered daycare between six to twelve months of age (rate ratio 1.32, 1.04 to 1.67). This subgroup of child-care attendees also had the highest overall URTI and AOM incidence rates, GP consultation rates and risk for specialist referral.
Children who enter daycare in the first year of life, have URTI and AOM at an earlier age, leading to higher use of healthcare resources compared to non-attendees, especially when entering daycare between six to twelve months. These findings emphasize the need for improved prevention strategies in daycare facilities to lower infection rates at the early ages.
PMCID: PMC4098954  PMID: 24965189
Upper respiratory infection; Otitis media; Daycare; Healthcare utilization; Paediatric; Cohort study
12.  Impaired Innate Mucosal Immunity in Aged Mice Permits Prolonged Streptococcus pneumoniae Colonization 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(12):4615-4625.
Streptococcus pneumoniae is a frequent asymptomatic colonizer of the nasopharyngeal niche and only occasionally progresses toward infection. The burden of pneumococcal disease is particularly high in the elderly, and the mechanisms behind this increased susceptibility are poorly understood. Here we used a mouse model of pneumococcal carriage to study immunosenescence in the upper respiratory tract (URT). Nasal mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (NALT) showed increased expression of Toll-like receptor 1, interleukin-1β, NLRp3 inflammasome, and CCL2 in naive elderly compared to young animals. This suggests an increased proinflammatory expression profile in the NALT of aged mice at baseline. Simultaneously, we observed a more tolerogenic profile in respiratory epithelia of naive elderly compared to young adult mice with upregulation of the NF-κβ pathway inhibitor peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ). After nasal instillation of pneumococci, pneumococcal colonization was prolonged in elderly mice compared to in young adults. The delay in clearance was associated with absent or delayed upregulation of a proinflammatory mediator(s) in the NALT, diminished influx of macrophages into the URT niche, and absent downregulation of PPARγ in respiratory epithelium, accompanied by diminished expression of cathelicidin (CRAMP) at the site of colonization. These findings suggest that unresponsiveness to pneumococcal challenge due to altered mucosal immune regulation is the key to increased susceptibility to disease in the elderly.
PMCID: PMC3837976  PMID: 24082075
13.  Seven-Valent Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine and Nasopharyngeal Microbiota in Healthy Children 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2014;20(2):201-210.
Careful monitoring of vaccines against common bacterial colonizers is needed.
Seven-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV-7) is effective against vaccine serotype disease and carriage. Nevertheless, shifts in colonization and disease toward nonvaccine serotypes and other potential pathogens have been described. To understand the extent of these shifts, we analyzed nasopharyngeal microbial profiles of 97 PCV-7–vaccinated infants and 103 control infants participating in a randomized controlled trial in the Netherlands. PCV-7 immunization resulted in a temporary shift in microbial community composition and increased bacterial diversity. Immunization also resulted in decreased presence of the pneumococcal vaccine serotype and an increase in the relative abundance and presence of nonpneumococcal streptococci and anaerobic bacteria. Furthermore, the abundance of Haemophilus and Staphylococcus bacteria in vaccinees was increased over that in controls. This study illustrates the much broader effect of vaccination with PCV-7 on the microbial community than currently assumed, and highlights the need for careful monitoring when implementing vaccines directed against common colonizers.
PMCID: PMC3901477  PMID: 24447437
seven-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine; PCV-7; pneumococcal conjugate vaccine; pneumococcal conjugate vaccination; pneumococci; bacteria; respiratory tract; colonization; randomized controlled trial; nasopharyngeal microbiota; children
14.  Alternative Sampling Methods for Detecting Bacterial Pathogens in Children with Upper Respiratory Tract Infections 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2012;50(12):4134-4137.
Nasopharyngeal sampling is used for detecting bacteria commonly involved in upper respiratory tract infections, but it requires training and may not always be well tolerated. We sampled children (n = 66) of ages 0 to 4 years, with rhinorrhea, by using a nasopharyngeal swab, a nasal swab, and nose blowing/wiping into a paper tissue. Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Moraxella catarrhalis, and Staphylococcus aureus were cultured at similar rates across methods with high concordance (80 to 97%), indicating that they are reliably detected by alternative means.
PMCID: PMC3502957  PMID: 23052306
15.  Superiority of Trans-Oral over Trans-Nasal Sampling in Detecting Streptococcus pneumoniae Colonization in Adults 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e60520.
The human nasopharynx is the main reservoir for Streptococcus pneumoniae. We applied conventional and molecular methods to determine the prevalence of S. pneumoniae nasopharyngeal colonization in adults. Paired trans-orally and trans-nasally obtained nasopharyngeal samples from 268 parents of 24-month-old children were assessed for pneumococcal presence. Parents were classified as colonized when live pneumococci were recovered from either sample cultured on medium selective for S. pneumoniae. Of the 52 (19%) colonized parents 49 (18%) were culture-positive in trans-nasal and 10 (4%) in trans-oral samples. Bacterial growth was harvested from these cultures, DNA isolated and tested by quantitative-PCR (qPCR) targeting lytA and piaA genes specific for S. pneumoniae. A sample was considered positive if signals for both genes were detected. Altogether 105 (39%) individuals were classified as positive for pneumococcus by qPCR including 50 (19%) in trans-nasal and 94 (35%) in trans-oral settings. Although significantly more trans-nasal compared to trans-oral samples were culture-positive for S. pneumoniae at the primary diagnostic step (p<0.001) the opposite was observed in qPCR results (p<0.001). To confirm the presence of live pneumococcus in samples positive by qPCR but negative at the initial diagnostic step, we serially-diluted cell harvests, re-cultured and carefully examined for S. pneumoniae presence. Live pneumococci were recovered from an additional 43 parents including 42 positive in trans-oral and 4 in trans-nasal samples increasing the number of individuals culture- and qPCR-positive to 93 (35%) and positive by either of two methods to 107 (40%). There were significantly more trans-oral than trans-nasal samples positive for pneumococcus by both culture and qPCR (n = 71; 27%; vs. n = 50; 19%; p<0.05). Our data suggest that pneumococcal colonization is more common in adults than previously estimated and point towards the superiority of a trans-oral over a trans-nasal approach when testing adults for colonization with S. pneumoniae.
PMCID: PMC3610877  PMID: 23555985
16.  Viral and Bacterial Interactions in the Upper Respiratory Tract 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(1):e1003057.
Respiratory infectious diseases are mainly caused by viruses or bacteria that often interact with one another. Although their presence is a prerequisite for subsequent infections, viruses and bacteria may be present in the nasopharynx without causing any respiratory symptoms. The upper respiratory tract hosts a vast range of commensals and potential pathogenic bacteria, which form a complex microbial community. This community is assumed to be constantly subject to synergistic and competitive interspecies interactions. Disturbances in the equilibrium, for instance due to the acquisition of new bacteria or viruses, may lead to overgrowth and invasion. A better understanding of the dynamics between commensals and pathogens in the upper respiratory tract may provide better insight into the pathogenesis of respiratory diseases. Here we review the current knowledge regarding specific bacterial–bacterial and viral–bacterial interactions that occur in the upper respiratory niche, and discuss mechanisms by which these interactions might be mediated. Finally, we propose a theoretical model to summarize and illustrate these mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3542149  PMID: 23326226
17.  Nasopharyngeal Colonization Elicits Antibody Responses to Staphylococcal and Pneumococcal Proteins That Are Not Associated with a Reduced Risk of Subsequent Carriage 
Infection and Immunity  2012;80(6):2186-2193.
Knowledge of the immunological correlates of Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae colonization is required for the search for future protein vaccines. We evaluated natural antibody levels against pneumococcal and staphylococcal proteins in relation to previous bacterial colonization with both pathogens. In a randomized controlled trial, nasopharyngeal samples were obtained from children at 1.5, 6, 12, 18, and 24 months and cultured for S. aureus and S. pneumoniae. Approximately 50% of the children were PCV7 vaccinated. Serum IgG against 18 pneumococcal and 40 staphylococcal proteins was semiquantified by Luminex technology from 111 12 month olds and 158 24 month olds. Previous culture-proven S. aureus colonization was associated with higher IgG levels against 6/40 staphylococcal proteins (ClfB, ClfA, Efb, CHIPS, LukD, and LukF [P ≤ 0.001]) compared to noncarriers. Previous pneumococcal colonization was associated with increased IgG levels against 12/18 pneumococcal proteins compared to noncarriers (P ≤ 0.003). Increasing age was associated with higher levels of antibodies to most pneumococcal proteins and lower levels of antibodies to over half the staphylococcal proteins, reflecting natural colonization dynamics. Anti-S. pneumoniae and anti-S. aureus protein antibodies at the age of 12 months were not negatively correlated with subsequent colonization with the homologous species in the following year and did not differ between PCV7-vaccinated and nonvaccinated children. Colonization with S. aureus and S. pneumoniae induces serum IgG against many proteins, predominantly proteins with immune-modulating functions, irrespective of PCV7 vaccination. None of them appeared to be protective against new acquisition with both pathogens, possibly due to the polymorphic nature of those proteins in the circulating bacterial population.
PMCID: PMC3370583  PMID: 22451514
18.  Prevalence and Clinical Course in Invasive Infections with Meningococcal Endotoxin Variants 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e49295.
Meningococci produce a penta-acylated instead of hexa-acylated lipid A when their lpxL1 gene is inactivated. Meningococcal strains with such lipid A endotoxin variants have been found previously in adult meningitis patients, where they caused less blood coagulopathy because of decreased TLR4 activation.
A cohort of 448 isolates from patients with invasive meningococcal disease in the Netherlands were screened for the ability to induce IL-6 in monocytic cell Mono Mac 6 cells. The lpxL1 gene was sequenced of isolates, which show poor capacity to induce IL-6.. Clinical characteristics of patients were retrieved from hospital records.
Of 448 patients, 29 (6.5%) were infected with meningococci expressing a lipid A variant strain. Lipid A variation was not associated with a specific serogroup or genotype. Infections with lipid A variants were associated with older age (19.3 vs. 5.9 (median) years, p = 0.007) and higher prevalence of underlying comorbidities (39% vs. 17%; p = 0.004) compared to wild-type strains. Patients infected with lipid A variant strains had less severe infections like meningitis or shock (OR 0.23; 95%CI 0.09–0.58) and were less often admitted to intensive care (OR 0.21; 95%CI 0.07–0.60) compared to wild-type strains, independent of age, underlying comorbidities or strain characteristics.
In adults with meningococcal disease lipid A variation is rather common. Infection with penta-acylated lipid A variant meningococci is associated with a less severe disease course.
PMCID: PMC3510230  PMID: 23209568
19.  Multivariate Approach for Studying Interactions between Environmental Variables and Microbial Communities 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e50267.
To understand the role of human microbiota in health and disease, we need to study effects of environmental and other epidemiological variables on the composition of microbial communities. The composition of a microbial community may depend on multiple factors simultaneously. Therefore we need multivariate methods for detecting, analyzing and visualizing the interactions between environmental variables and microbial communities. We provide two different approaches for multivariate analysis of these complex combined datasets: (i) We select variables that correlate with overall microbiota composition and microbiota members that correlate with the metadata using canonical correlation analysis, determine independency of the observed correlations in a multivariate regression analysis, and visualize the effect size and direction of the observed correlations using heatmaps; (ii) We select variables and microbiota members using univariate or bivariate regression analysis, followed by multivariate regression analysis, and visualize the effect size and direction of the observed correlations using heatmaps. We illustrate the results of both approaches using a dataset containing respiratory microbiota composition and accompanying metadata. The two different approaches provide slightly different results; with approach (i) using canonical correlation analysis to select determinants and microbiota members detecting fewer and stronger correlations only and approach (ii) using univariate or bivariate analyses to select determinants and microbiota members detecting a similar but broader pattern of correlations. The proposed approaches both detect and visualize independent correlations between multiple environmental variables and members of the microbial community. Depending on the size of the datasets and the hypothesis tested one can select the method of preference.
PMCID: PMC3506578  PMID: 23189192
20.  Associations between Pathogens in the Upper Respiratory Tract of Young Children: Interplay between Viruses and Bacteria 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e47711.
High rates of potentially pathogenic bacteria and respiratory viruses can be detected in the upper respiratory tract of healthy children. Investigating presence of and associations between these pathogens in healthy individuals is still a rather unexplored field of research, but may have implications for interpreting findings during disease.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We selected 986 nasopharyngeal samples from 433 6- to 24-month-old healthy children that had participated in a randomized controlled trial. We determined the presence of 20 common respiratory viruses using real-time PCR. Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Moraxella catarrhalis and Staphylococcus aureus were identified by conventional culture methods. Information on risk factors was obtained by questionnaires. We performed multivariate logistic regression analyses followed by partial correlation analysis to identify the overall pattern of associations. S. pneumoniae colonization was positively associated with the presence of H. influenzae (adjusted odds ratio 1.60, 95% confidence interval 1.18–2.16), M. catarrhalis (1.78, 1.29–2.47), human rhinoviruses (1.63, 1.19–2.22) and enteroviruses (1.97, 1.26–3.10), and negatively associated with S. aureus presence (0.59, 0.35–0.98). H. influenzae was positively associated with human rhinoviruses (1.63, 1.22–2.18) and respiratory syncytial viruses (2.78, 1.06–7.28). M. catarrhalis colonization was positively associated with coronaviruses (1.99, 1.01–3.93) and adenoviruses (3.69, 1.29–10.56), and negatively with S. aureus carriage (0.42, 0.25–0.69). We observed a strong positive association between S. aureus and influenza viruses (4.87, 1.59–14.89). In addition, human rhinoviruses and enteroviruses were positively correlated (2.40, 1.66–3.47), as were enteroviruses and human bocavirus, WU polyomavirus, parainfluenza viruses, and human parechovirus. A negative association was observed between human rhinoviruses and coronaviruses.
Our data revealed high viral and bacterial prevalence rates and distinct bacterial-bacterial, viral-bacterial and viral-viral associations in healthy children, hinting towards the complexity and potential dynamics of microbial communities in the upper respiratory tract. This warrants careful consideration when associating microbial presence with specific respiratory diseases.
PMCID: PMC3474735  PMID: 23082199
21.  Salivary Immune Responses to the 7-Valent Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine in the First 2 Years of Life 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e46916.
The CRM197-conjugated 7-valent pneumococcal vaccine (PCV7) is protective against vaccine serotype disease and nasopharyngeal carriage. Data on PCV7-induced mucosal antibodies in relation to systemic or natural anticapsular antibodies are scarce.
In a randomized controlled setting, children received PCV7 at age 2 and 4 months (2-dose group), at age 2, 4 and 11 months (2+1-dose group) or no PCV7 (control group). From 188 children paired saliva samples were collected at 12 and 24 months of age. From a subgroup of 15 immunized children also serum samples were collected. IgG and IgA antibody-levels were measured by multiplex immunoassay.
At 12 months, both vaccine groups showed higher serum and saliva IgG-levels against vaccine serotypes compared with controls which sustained until 24 months for most serotypes. Salivary IgG-levels were 10–20-fold lower compared to serum IgG, however, serum and saliva IgG-levels were highly correlated. Serum and salivary IgA-levels were higher in both vaccine groups at 12 months compared with controls, except for serotype 19F. Higher salivary IgA levels remained present for most serotypes in the 2+1-dose group until 24 months, but not in the 2-dose group. Salivary IgA more than IgG, increased after documented carriage of serotypes 6B, 19F and 23F In contrast to IgG, salivary IgA-levels were comparable with serum, suggesting local IgA-production.
PCV7 vaccination results in significant increases in salivary IgG and IgA-levels, which are more pronounced for IgG when compared to controls. In contrast, salivary anticapsular IgA-levels seemed to respond more to natural boosting. Salivary IgG and IgA-levels correlate well with systemic antibodies, suggesting saliva might be useful as potential future surveillance tool.
PMCID: PMC3473066  PMID: 23077532
23.  Long-Term Effects of Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine on Nasopharyngeal Carriage of S. pneumoniae, S. aureus, H. influenzae and M. catarrhalis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39730.
Shifts in pneumococcal serotypes following introduction of 7-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV-7) may alter the presence of other bacterial pathogens co-inhabiting the same nasopharyngeal niche.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Nasopharyngeal prevalence rates of S. pneumoniae, S. aureus, H. influenzae and M. catarrhalis were investigated before, 3 and 4.5 years after introduction of PCV-7 in the national immunisation program in children at 11 and 24 months of age, and parents of 24-month-old children (n≈330/group) using conventional culture methods. Despite a virtual disappearance of PCV-7 serotypes over time, similar overall pneumococcal rates were observed in all age groups, except for a significant reduction in the 11-month-old group (adjusted Odds Ratio after 4.5 years 0.48, 95% Confidence Interval 0.34–0.67). Before, 3 and 4.5 years after PCV-7 implementation, prevalence rates of S. aureus were 5%, 9% and 14% at 11 months of age (3.59, 1.90–6.79) and 20%, 32% and 34% in parents (1.96, 1.36–2.83), but remained similar at 24 months of age, respectively. Prevalence rates of H. influenzae were 46%, 65% and 65% at 11 months (2.22, 1.58–3.13), 52%, 73% and 76% at 24 months of age (2.68, 1.88–3.82) and 23%, 30% and 40% in parents (2.26, 1.58–3.33), respectively. No consistent changes in M. catarrhalis carriage rates were observed over time.
In addition to large shifts in pneumococcal serotypes, persistently higher nasopharyngeal prevalence rates of S. aureus and H. influenzae were observed among young children and their parents after PCV-7 implementation. These findings may have implications for disease incidence and antibiotic treatment in the post-PCV era.
PMCID: PMC3382588  PMID: 22761879
24.  Deep Sequencing Analyses of Low Density Microbial Communities: Working at the Boundary of Accurate Microbiota Detection 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e32942.
Accurate analyses of microbiota composition of low-density communities (103–104 bacteria/sample) can be challenging. Background DNA from chemicals and consumables, extraction biases as well as differences in PCR efficiency can significantly interfere with microbiota assessment. This study was aiming to establish protocols for accurate microbiota analysis at low microbial density.
To examine possible effects of bacterial density on microbiota analyses we compared microbiota profiles of serial diluted saliva and low (nares, nasopharynx) and high-density (oropharynx) upper airway communities in four healthy individuals. DNA was extracted with four different extraction methods (Epicentre Masterpure, Qiagen DNeasy, Mobio Powersoil and a phenol bead-beating protocol combined with Agowa-Mag-mini). Bacterial DNA recovery was analysed by 16S qPCR and microbiota profiles through GS-FLX-Titanium-Sequencing of 16S rRNA gene amplicons spanning the V5–V7 regions.
Lower template concentrations significantly impacted microbiota profiling results. With higher dilutions, low abundant species were overrepresented. In samples of <105 bacteria per ml, e.g. DNA <1 pg/µl, microbiota profiling deviated from the original sample and other dilutions showing a significant increase in the taxa Proteobacteria and decrease in Bacteroidetes. In similar low density samples, DNA extraction method determined if DNA levels were below or above 1 pg/µl and, together with lysis preferences per method, had profound impact on microbiota analyses in both relative abundance as well as representation of species.
This study aimed to interpret microbiota analyses of low-density communities. Bacterial density seemed to interfere with microbiota analyses at < than 106 bacteria per ml or DNA <1 pg/µl. We therefore recommend this threshold for working with low density materials. This study underlines that bias reduction is crucial for adequate profiling of especially low-density bacterial communities.
PMCID: PMC3295791  PMID: 22412957
25.  Effect of Seven-Valent Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine on Staphylococcus aureus Colonisation in a Randomised Controlled Trial 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e20229.
Heptavalent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7) shifts nasopharyngeal colonisation with vaccine serotype pneumococci towards nonvaccine serotypes. Because of the reported negative association of vaccine serotype pneumococci and Staphylococcus aureus in the nasopharynx, we explored the effect of PCV7 on nasopharyngeal colonisation with S. aureus in children and parents.
Methodology/Principal Findings
This study was part of a randomised controlled trial on the effect of PCV7 on pneumococcal carriage, enrolling healthy newborns who were randomly assigned (1∶1∶1) to receive PCV7 (1) at 2 and 4 months of age (2) at 2, 4 and 11 months or (3) no PCV7 (controls). Nasopharyngeal colonisation of S. aureus was a planned secondary outcome. Nasopharyngeal swabs were obtained from all children over a 2-year period with 6-months interval and from one parent at the child's age of 12 and 24 months and cultured for Streptococcus pneumoniae and S. aureus. Between July 2005 and February 2006, 1005 children were enrolled and received either 2-doses of PCV7 (n = 336), 2+1-doses (336) or no dose (n = 333) before PCV7 implementation in the Dutch national immunization program. S. aureus colonisation had doubled in children in the 2+1-dose group at 12 months of age compared with unvaccinated controls (10.1% versus 5.0%; p = 0.019). A negative association for co-colonisation of S. pneumoniae and S. aureus was observed for both vaccine serotype (adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 0.53, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.38–0.74) and nonvaccine serotype pneumococci (aOR 0.67, 95% CI 0.52–0.88).
PCV7 induces a temporary increase in S. aureus colonisation in children around 12 months of age after a 2+1-dose PCV7 schedule. The potential clinical consequences are unknown and monitoring is warranted.
Trial Registration NCT00189020
PMCID: PMC3112202  PMID: 21695210

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