Background: Effective management of protracted bacterial bronchitis (PBB) is needed to prevent chronic disease (eg, bronchiectasis). Understanding the contributions of ongoing airway infection and inflammation is important to achieving optimal PBB treatments. The aim of this study was to compare BAL microbiota, bacterial biomass, and inflammatory markers in children with PBB and age-matched control patients.
Methods: BAL was prospectively collected from 28 children with PBB (median age, 1.7 years; range, 0.6-7.4) and 8 control patients (median age, 1.9 years; range, 0.4-4.7). BAL microbiology was determined using culture, 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequencing and bacterial biomass quantification. BAL inflammatory cells, IL-8, and IL-1β were used to assess lower airway inflammation.
Results: Bacterial biomass, neutrophil percentage, IL-8, and IL-1β levels were significantly higher in children with PBB compared with control patients. BAL microbiota in children with PBB was significantly different to that of control patients (permutational multivariate analysis of variance P =.001) and clustered into four distinct profiles that were either dominated by a respiratory pathogen or contained a more diverse microbiota including Prevotella species. Alpha diversity was unrelated to bacterial biomass, culture of recognized respiratory pathogens, or inflammatory markers.
Conclusions: Neutrophilic inflammation in children with PBB was associated with multiple BAL microbiota profiles. Significant associations between inflammatory markers and bacterial biomass, but not alpha diversity, suggest that inflammation in children with PBB is not driven by single pathogenic species. Understanding the role of the entire respiratory microbiota in PBB pathogenesis may be important to determining whether bacteria other than the recognized pathogens contribute to disease recurrence and progression to bronchiectasis.