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Changes in upper airways microbiota in ventilator-associated pneumonia.

BACKGROUND: The role of upper airways microbiota and its association with ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) development in mechanically ventilated (MV) patients is unclear. Taking advantage of data collected in a prospective study aimed to assess the composition and over-time variation of upper airway microbiota in patients MV for non-pulmonary reasons, we describe upper airway microbiota characteristics among VAP and NO-VAP patients.

METHODS: Exploratory analysis of data collected in a prospective observational study on patients intubated for non-pulmonary conditions. Microbiota analysis (trough 16S-rRNA gene profiling) was performed on endotracheal aspirates (at intubation, T0, and after 72 h, T3) of patients with VAP (cases cohort) and a subgroup of NO-VAP patients (control cohort, matched according to total intubation time).

RESULTS: Samples from 13 VAP patients and 22 NO-VAP matched controls were analyzed. At intubation (T0), patients with VAP revealed a significantly lower microbial complexity of the microbiota of the upper airways compared to NO-VAP controls (alpha diversity index of 84 ± 37 and 160 ± 102, in VAP and NO_VAP group, respectively, p-value < 0.012). Furthermore, an overall decrease in microbial diversity was observed in both groups at T3 as compared to T0. At T3, a loss of some genera (Prevotella 7, Fusobacterium, Neisseria, Escherichia-Shigella and Haemophilus) was found in VAP patients. In contrast, eight genera belonging to the Bacteroidetes, Firmicutes and Fusobacteria phyla was predominant in this group. However, it is unclear whether VAP caused dysbiosis or dysbiosis caused VAP.

CONCLUSIONS: In a small sample size of intubated patients, microbial diversity at intubation was less in patients with VAP compared to patients without VAP.

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