BACKGROUND: The airways of healthy humans harbor a distinct microbial community. Perturbations in the microbial community have been associated with disease, yet little is known about the formation and development of a healthy airway microbiota in early life. Our goal was to understand the establishment of the airway microbiota within the first 3 months of life. We investigated the hypopharyngeal microbiota in the unselected COPSAC2010 cohort of 700 infants, using 16S rRNA gene sequencing of hypopharyngeal aspirates from 1 week, 1 month, and 3 months of age.
RESULTS: Our analysis shows that majority of the hypopharyngeal microbiota of healthy infants belong to each individual's core microbiota and we demonstrate five distinct community pneumotypes. Four of these pneumotypes are dominated by the genera Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Moraxella, and Corynebacterium, respectively. Furthermore, we show temporal pneumotype changes suggesting a rapid development towards maturation of the hypopharyngeal microbiota and a significant effect from older siblings. Despite an overall common trajectory towards maturation, individual infants' microbiota are more similar to their own, than to others, over time.
CONCLUSIONS: Our findings demonstrate a consolidation of the population of indigenous bacteria in healthy airways and indicate distinct trajectories in the early development of the hypopharyngeal microbiota.