Mycobiome Sequencing and Analysis Applied to Fungal Community Profiling of the Lower Respiratory Tract During Fungal Pathogenesis

Lisa R. McTaggart, Julia K. Copeland, Anuradha Surendra, Pauline W. Wang, Shahid Husain, Bryan Coburn, David S. Guttman and Julianne V. Kus

Front Microbiol. 2019 Mar 15;10:512. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2019.00512. eCollection 2019.

PMID: 30930884


Invasive fungal infections are an increasingly important cause of human morbidity and mortality. We generated a next-generation sequencing (NGS)-based method designed to detect a wide range of fungi and applied it to analysis of the fungal microbiome (mycobiome) of the lung during fungal infection. Internal transcribed spacer 1 (ITS1) amplicon sequencing and a custom analysis pipeline detected 96% of species from three mock communities comprised of potential fungal lung pathogens with good recapitulation of the expected species distributions (Pearson correlation coefficients r = 0.63, p = 0.004; r = 0.71, p < 0.001; r = 0.62, p = 0.002). We used this pipeline to analyze mycobiomes of bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) specimens classified as culture-negative (n = 50) or culture-positive (n = 39) for Blastomyces dermatitidis/gilchristii, the causative agent of North America blastomycosis. Detected in 91.4% of the culture-positive samples, Blastomyces dominated (>50% relative abundance) the mycobiome in 68.6% of these culture-positive samples but was absent in culture-negative samples. To overcome any bias in relative abundance due to between-sample variation in fungal biomass, an abundance-weighting calculation was used to normalize the data by accounting for sample-specific PCR cycle number and PCR product concentration data utilized during sample preparation. After normalization, there was a statistically significant greater overall abundance of ITS1 amplicon in the Blastomyces-culture-positive samples versus culture-negative samples. Moreover, the normalization revealed a greater biomass of yeast and environmental fungi in several Blastomyces-culture-positive samples than in the culture-negative samples. Successful detection of Coccidioides, Scedosporium, Phaeoacremonium, and Aspergillus in 6 additional culture-positive BALs by ITS1 amplicon sequencing demonstrates the ability of this method to detect a broad range of fungi from clinical specimens, suggesting that it may be a potentially useful adjunct to traditional fungal microbiological testing for the diagnosis of respiratory mycoses.