The Role of the Respiratory Microbiome and Viral Presence in Lower Respiratory Tract Infection Severity in the First Five Years of Life

Ivo Hoefnagels, Josephine van de Maat, Jeroen J. A. van Kampen, Annemarie van Rossum, Charlie Obihara, Gerdien A. Tramper-Stranders, Astrid P. Heikema, Willem de Koning, Anne-Marie van Wermerskerken, Deborah Horst-Kreft, Gertjan J. A. Driessen, Janine Punt, Frank J. Smit, Andrew Stubbs, Jeroen G. Noordzij, John P. Hays, Rianne Oostenbrink*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Web of Science)


Lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs) in children are common and, although often mild, a major cause of mortality and hospitalization. Recently, the respiratory microbiome has been associated with both susceptibility and severity of LRTI. In this current study, we combined respiratory microbiome, viral, and clinical data to find associations with the severity of LRTI. Nasopharyngeal aspirates of children aged one month to five years included in the STRAP study (Study to Reduce Antibiotic prescription in childhood Pneumonia), who presented at the emergency department (ED) with fever and cough or dyspnea, were sequenced with nanopore 16S-rRNA gene sequencing and subsequently analyzed with hierarchical clustering to identify respiratory microbiome profiles. Samples were also tested using a panel of 15 respiratory viruses and Mycoplasma pneumoniae, which were analyzed in two groups, according to their reported virulence. The primary outcome was hospitalization, as measure of disease severity. Nasopharyngeal samples were isolated from a total of 167 children. After quality filtering, microbiome results were available for 54 children and virology panels for 158 children. Six distinct genus-dominant microbiome profiles were identified, with Haemophilus-, Moraxella-, and Streptococcus-dominant profiles being the most prevalent. However, these profiles were not found to be significantly associated with hospitalization. At least one virus was detected in 139 (88%) children, of whom 32.4% had co-infections with multiple viruses. Viral co-infections were common for adenovirus, bocavirus, and enterovirus, and uncommon for human metapneumovirus (hMPV) and influenza A virus. The detection of enteroviruses was negatively associated with hospitalization. Virulence groups were not significantly associated with hospitalization. Our data underlines high detection rates and co-infection of viruses in children with respiratory symptoms and confirms the predominant presence of Haemophilus-, Streptococcus-, and Moraxella-dominant profiles in a symptomatic pediatric population at the ED. However, we could not assess significant associations between microbiome profiles and disease severity measures.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1446
Number of pages14
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • lower respiratory tract infection
  • respiratory microbiome
  • virus
  • nanopore sequencing
  • 16S-rRNA gene

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