Background: Respiratory morbidity in Australian Indigenous children is higher than their non-Indigenous counterparts, irrespective of urban or remote residence. There are limited studies addressing acute respiratory illness (ARI) in urban Indigenous children, particularly those that address the upper airway microbiome and its relationship to disease. We aimed to describe the prevalence of upper airway viruses and bacteria in symptomatic and asymptomatic urban-based Australian Indigenous children aged less than 5 years.
Methods: A cross-sectional analysis of data collected at baseline in an ongoing prospective cohort study of urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children registered with a primary health care service in the northern suburbs of Brisbane, Australia. Clinical, demographic and epidemiological data and bilateral anterior nasal swabs were collected on enrolment. Polymerase chain reaction was performed on nasal swabs to detect 17 respiratory viruses and 7 bacteria. The primary outcome was the prevalence of these microbes at enrolment. Logistic regression was performed to investigate differences in microbe prevalence between children with and without acute respiratory illness with cough as a symptom (ARIwC) at time of specimen collection.
Results: Between February 2013 and October 2015, 164 children were enrolled. The median age at enrolment was 18.0 months (IQR 7.2-34.3), 49.4% were boys and 56 children (34.2%) had ARIwC. Overall, 133/164 (81%) nasal swabs were positive for at least one organism; 131 (79.9%) for any bacteria, 59 (36.2%) for any virus and 57 (34.8%) for both viruses and bacteria. Co-detection of viruses and bacteria was more common in females than males (61.4% vs 38.6%, p = 0.044). No microbes, alone or in combination, were significantly associated with the presence of ARIwC.
Conclusions: The prevalence of upper airways microbes in asymptomatic children is similar to non-Indigenous children with ARIwC from the same region. Determining the aetiology of ARIwC in this community is complicated by the high prevalence of multiple respiratory pathogens in the upper airways. Study registration: Australia New Zealand Clinical Trial Registry Registration Number: 12,614,001,214,628. Retrospectively registered.