Age-Related Changes in the Nasopharyngeal Microbiome Are Associated With Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) Infection and Symptoms Among Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

BACKGROUND: Children are less susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection and typically have milder illness courses than adults, but the factors underlying these age-associated differences are not well understood. The upper respiratory microbiome undergoes substantial shifts during childhood and is increasingly recognized to influence host defense against respiratory pathogens. Thus, we sought to identify upper respiratory microbiome features associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection susceptibility and illness severity. METHODS: We collected clinical data and nasopharyngeal swabs from 285 children, adolescents, and young adults (<21 years) with documented SARS-CoV-2 exposure. We used 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequencing to characterize the nasopharyngeal microbiome and evaluated for age-adjusted associations between microbiome characteristics and SARS-CoV-2 infection status and respiratory symptoms. RESULTS: Nasopharyngeal microbiome composition varied with age (PERMANOVA, P < .001; R2 = 0.06) and between SARS-CoV-2-infected individuals with and without respiratory symptoms (PERMANOVA, P  = .002; R2 = 0.009). SARS-CoV-2-infected participants with Corynebacterium/Dolosigranulum-dominant microbiome profiles were less likely to have respiratory symptoms than infected participants with other nasopharyngeal microbiome profiles (OR: .38; 95% CI: .18-.81). Using generalized joint attributed modeling, we identified 9 bacterial taxa associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection and 6 taxa differentially abundant among SARS-CoV-2-infected participants with respiratory symptoms; the magnitude of these associations was strongly influenced by age. CONCLUSIONS: We identified interactive relationships between age and specific nasopharyngeal microbiome features that are associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection susceptibility and symptoms in children, adolescents, and young adults. Our data suggest that the upper respiratory microbiome may be a mechanism by which age influences SARS-CoV-2 susceptibility and illness severity.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Hurst, JH; McCumber, AW; Aquino, JN; Rodriguez, J; Heston, SM; Lugo, DJ; Rotta, AT; Turner, NA; Pfeiffer, TS; Gurley, TC; Moody, MA; Denny, TN; Rawls, JF; Clark, JS; Woods, CW; Kelly, MS

Published Date

  • August 24, 2022

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 75 / 1

Start / End Page

  • e928 - e937

PubMed ID

  • 35247047

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC8903463

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1537-6591

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1093/cid/ciac184


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States