Bacteria and sputum inflammatory cell counts; a COPD cohort analysis

Augusta Beech, Simon Lea, Umme Kolsum, Zhang Wang, Bruce E Miller, Gavin C. Donaldson, J Wedzicha, C Brightling, Dave Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: There is evidence that bacterial colonisation in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is associated with increased neutrophilic airway inflammation. This study tested the hypothesis that different bacterial phyla and species cause different inflammatory profiles in COPD patients. Methods: Sputum was analysed by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) to quantify bacterial load and 16S rRNA gene sequencing to identify taxonomic composition. Sputum differential cell counts (DCC) and blood DCC were obtained at baseline and 6 months. Patients were categorised into five groups based on bacterial load defined by genome copies/ml of ≥ 1 × 104, no colonisation and colonisation by Haemophilus influenzae (H. influenzae), Moraxella catarrhalis (M. catarrhalis), Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumoniae), or > 1 potentially pathogenic microorganism (PPM). Results: We observed an increase in sputum neutrophil (%), blood neutrophil (%) and neutrophil-lymphocyte ratio (NLR) in patients colonised with H. influenzae (82.6, 67.1, and 3.29 respectively) compared to those without PPM colonisation at baseline (69.5, 63.51 and 2.56 respectively) (p < 0.05 for all analyses), with similar findings at 6 months. The bacterial load of H. influenzae and Haemophilus determined by qPCR and 16s rRNA gene sequencing respectively, and sputum neutrophil % were positively correlated between baseline and 6 months visits (p < 0.0001, 0.0150 and 0.0002 with r = 0.53, 0.33 and 0.44 respectively). Conclusions: These results demonstrate a subgroup of COPD patients with persistent H. influenzae colonisation that is associated with increased airway and systemic neutrophilic airway inflammation, and less eosinophilic airway inflammation. Keywords: COPD; Eosinophil; Haemophilus influenzae; Microbiome; Sputum
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289
JournalRespiratory research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • COPD; Eosinophil; Haemophilus influenzae; Microbiome; Sputum.


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