Scientific Reports

Functional profiling of COVID-19 respiratory tract microbiomes

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In response to the ongoing global pandemic, characterizing the molecular-level host interactions of the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 responsible for COVID-19 has been at the center of unprecedented scientific focus. However, when the virus enters the body it also interacts with the micro-organisms already inhabiting the host. Understanding the virus-host-microbiome interactions can yield additional insights into the biological processes perturbed by viral invasion. Alterations in the gut microbiome species and metabolites have been noted during respiratory viral infections, possibly impacting the lungs via gut-lung microbiome crosstalk. To better characterize microbial functions in the lower respiratory tract during COVID-19 infection, we carry out a functional analysis of previously published metatranscriptome sequencing data of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid from eight COVID-19 cases, twenty-five community-acquired pneumonia patients, and twenty healthy controls. The functional profiles resulting from comparing the sequences against annotated microbial protein domains clearly separate the cohorts. By examining the associated metabolic pathways, distinguishing functional signatures in COVID-19 respiratory tract microbiomes are identified, including decreased potential for lipid metabolism and glycan biosynthesis and metabolism pathways, and increased potential for carbohydrate metabolism pathways. The results include overlap between previous studies on COVID-19 microbiomes, including decrease in the glycosaminoglycan degradation pathway and increase in carbohydrate metabolism. The results also suggest novel connections to consider, possibly specific to the lower respiratory tract microbiome, calling for further research on microbial functions and host-microbiome interactions during SARS-CoV-2 infection.


19 Mar 2021


Scientific Reports