Characterization of antibiotic resistance and host-microbiome interactions in the human upper respiratory tract during influenza infection

Lingdi Zhang, Christian V. Forst, Aubree Gordon, Gabrielle Gussin, Adam B. Geber, Porfirio J. Fernandez, Tao Ding, Lauren Lashua, Minghui Wang, Angel Balmaseda, Richard Bonneau, Bin Zhang, Elodie Ghedin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The abundance and diversity of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in the human respiratory microbiome remain poorly characterized. In the context of influenza virus infection, interactions between the virus, the host, and resident bacteria with pathogenic potential are known to complicate and worsen disease, resulting in coinfection and increased morbidity and mortality of infected individuals. When pathogenic bacteria acquire antibiotic resistance, they are more difficult to treat and of global health concern. Characterization of ARG expression in the upper respiratory tract could help better understand the role antibiotic resistance plays in the pathogenesis of influenza-associated bacterial secondary infection. Results: Thirty-seven individuals participating in the Household Influenza Transmission Study (HITS) in Managua, Nicaragua, were selected for this study. We performed metatranscriptomics and 16S rRNA gene sequencing analyses on nasal and throat swab samples, and host transcriptome profiling on blood samples. Individuals clustered into two groups based on their microbial gene expression profiles, with several microbial pathways enriched with genes differentially expressed between groups. We also analyzed antibiotic resistance gene expression and determined that approximately 25% of the sequence reads that corresponded to antibiotic resistance genes mapped to Streptococcus pneumoniae and Staphylococcus aureus. Following construction of an integrated network of ARG expression with host gene co-expression, we identified several host key regulators involved in the host response to influenza virus and bacterial infections, and host gene pathways associated with specific antibiotic resistance genes. Conclusions: This study indicates the host response to influenza infection could indirectly affect antibiotic resistance gene expression in the respiratory tract by impacting the microbial community structure and overall microbial gene expression. Interactions between the host systemic responses to influenza infection and antibiotic resistance gene expression highlight the importance of viral-bacterial co-infection in acute respiratory infections like influenza. [MediaObject not available: See fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number39
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 17 2020


  • Antibiotic resistance
  • Influenza infection
  • Metatranscriptome
  • Microbiome
  • Upper respiratory tract infection
  • Bacteria/drug effects
  • Humans
  • Child, Preschool
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S/genetics
  • Male
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Young Adult
  • Microbiota
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Staphylococcus aureus/genetics
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae/genetics
  • Host Microbial Interactions
  • Child
  • Nicaragua
  • Coinfection/microbiology
  • Adolescent
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial/genetics
  • Respiratory Tract Infections/virology
  • Influenza, Human/microbiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Microbiology


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