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Key DiscoveryHLI Researchers Find Correlations Between the Sputum Microbiome and Mortality Rates in COPD Patients

Oct 30, 2019

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a group of chronic lung diseases characterized by poor airflow with prognoses that vary dramatically from mild symptoms to death. A challenge for effective COPD management is for clinicians to accurately stratify patients according to risk of disease progression.

The microbiome refers to the collection of microorganisms (such as bacteria, virus, fungus, etc) in an ecosystem. In this study funded by Genome Canada, Genome BC, and St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation, sputum, which consists of saliva and mucus, was collected from 102 COPD patients, and the researchers discovered a correlation between the composition of the patient sputum microbiome and 1-year mortality in COPD patients who were hospitalized due to an acute event. Dr. Sin and his team found that patients who did not survive one year after discharge had less diverse sputum bacterial populations. The researchers also discovered that the patients had worse survival if they had the bacteria Staphylococcus or did not have Veillonella bacteria in their sputum.

This work suggests that COPD patient sputum may be used to identify specific at-risk patients for closer monitoring following discharge from the hospital.

First author Fernando Sergio Leitao Filho is a HLI postdoctoral fellow and a recipient of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research ICS Travel Award and American Thoracic Society Abstract Scholarship.