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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Complex sputum microbial composition in patients with pulmonary tuberculosis

Zelin Cui1, Yuhua Zhou1, Hong Li2, Yan Zhang1, Shulin Zhang1, Shenjie Tang2* and Xiaokui Guo1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medical Microbiology and Parasitology, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, 200025, Shanghai, China

2 Tuberculosis Centre for Diagnosis and Treatment, Shanghai Pulmonary Hospital, Tongji University School of Medicine, Shanghai 200433, China

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BMC Microbiology 2012, 12:276  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-12-276

Published: 23 November 2012



An increasing number of studies have implicated the microbiome in certain diseases, especially chronic diseases. In this study, the bacterial communities in the sputum of pulmonary tuberculosis patients were explored. Total DNA was extracted from sputum samples from 31 pulmonary tuberculosis patients and respiratory secretions of 24 healthy participants. The 16S rRNA V3 hyper-variable regions were amplified using bar-coded primers and pyro-sequenced using Roche 454 FLX.


The results showed that the microbiota in the sputum of pulmonary tuberculosis patients were more diverse than those of healthy participants (p<0.05). The sequences were classified into 24 phyla, all of which were found in pulmonary tuberculosis patients and 17 of which were found in healthy participants. Furthermore, many foreign bacteria, such as Stenotrophomonas, Cupriavidus, Pseudomonas, Thermus, Sphingomonas, Methylobacterium, Diaphorobacter, Comamonas, and Mobilicoccus, were unique to pulmonary tuberculosis patients.


This study concluded that the microbial composition of the respiratory tract of pulmonary tuberculosis patients is more complicated than that of healthy participants, and many foreign bacteria were found in the sputum of pulmonary tuberculosis patients. The roles of these foreign bacteria in the onset or development of pulmonary tuberculosis shoud be considered by clinicians.

Pulmonary tuberculosis; Sputum; Microbiota; Diversity