Microbial composition of the human nasopharynx varies according to influenza virus type and vaccination status

Tao Ding, Timothy Song, Bin Zhou, Adam Geber, Yixuan Ma, Lingdi Zhang, Michelle Volk, Shashi N. Kapadia, Stephen G. Jenkins, Mirella Salvatore, Elodie Ghedin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Factors that contribute to enhanced susceptibility to severe bacterial disease after influenza virus infection are not well defined but likely include the microbiome of the respiratory tract. Vaccination against influenza, while having variable effectiveness, could also play a role in microbial community stability. We collected nasopharyngeal samples from 215 individuals infected with influenza A/H3N2 or influenza B virus and profiled the microbiota by target sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene. We identified signature taxonomic groups by performing linear discriminant analysis and effective size comparisons (LEfSe) and defined bacterial community types using Dirichlet multinomial mixture (DMM) models. Influenza infection was shown to be significantly associated with microbial composition of the nasopharynx according to the virus type and the vaccination status of the patient. We identified four microbial community types across the combined cohort of influenza patients and healthy individuals with one community type most representative of the influenza virus-infected group. We also identified microbial taxa for which relative abundance was significantly higher in the unvaccinated elderly group; these taxa include species known to be associated with pneumonia. IMPORTANCE Our results suggest that there is a significant association between the composition of the microbiota in the nasopharynx and the influenza virus type causing the infection. We observe that vaccination status, especially in more senior individuals, also has an association with the microbial community profile. This indicates that vaccination against influenza, even when ineffective to prevent disease, could play a role in controlling secondary bacterial complications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01296-19
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019


  • 16S RNA sequencing
  • Influenza virus
  • Microbiome
  • Vaccination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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