Longitudinal Associations of the Cystic Fibrosis Airway Microbiome and Volatile Metabolites: A Case Study

Andrea Hahn, Katrine Whiteson, Trenton J. Davis, Joann Phan, Iman Sami, Anastassios C. Koumbourlis, Robert J. Freishtat, Keith A. Crandall, Heather D. Bean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The identification of 16S rDNA biomarkers from respiratory samples to describe the continuum of clinical disease states within persons having cystic fibrosis (CF) has remained elusive. We sought to combine 16S, metagenomics, and metabolomics data to describe multiple transitions between clinical disease states in 14 samples collected over a 12-month period in a single person with CF. We hypothesized that each clinical disease state would have a unique combination of bacterial genera and volatile metabolites as a potential signature that could be utilized as a biomarker of clinical disease state. Taxonomy identified by 16S sequencing corroborated clinical culture results, with the majority of the 109 PCR amplicons belonging to the bacteria grown in clinical cultures (Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus). While alpha diversity measures fluctuated across disease states, no significant trends were present. Principle coordinates analysis showed that treatment samples trended toward a different community composition than baseline and exacerbation samples. This was driven by the phylum Bacteroidetes (less abundant in treatment, log2 fold difference −3.29, p = 0.015) and the genus Stenotrophomonas (more abundant in treatment, log2 fold difference 6.26, p = 0.003). Across all sputum samples, 466 distinct volatile metabolites were identified with total intensity varying across clinical disease state. Baseline and exacerbation samples were rather uniform in chemical composition and similar to one another, while treatment samples were highly variable and differed from the other two disease states. When utilizing a combination of the microbiome and metabolome data, we observed associations between samples dominated Staphylococcus and Escherichia and higher relative abundances of alcohols, while samples dominated by Achromobacter correlated with a metabolomics shift toward more oxidized volatiles. However, the microbiome and metabolome data were not tightly correlated; examining both the metagenomics and metabolomics allows for more context to examine changes across clinical disease states. In our study, combining the sputum microbiome and metabolome data revealed stability in the sputum composition through the first exacerbation and treatment episode, and into the second exacerbation. However, the second treatment ushered in a prolonged period of instability, which after three additional exacerbations and treatments culminated in a new lung microbiome and metabolome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number174
JournalFrontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology
StatePublished - Apr 28 2020


  • cystic fibrosis
  • metabolome
  • microbiome
  • pediatrics
  • pulmonary medicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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