Role of the microbiome in lower airway disease

Currently researched by David Broderick & tyler regtien


New Zealand children have a high disease burden of acute and chronic respiratory disorders, especially in Māori and Pacific Island populations.  In order to help understand the pathophysiology of these diseases in New Zealand children, we are studying the airway microbiome of acute respiratory conditions such as acute bronchiolitis and community acquired pneumonia, as well as the chronic condition bronchiectasis.  This research is being carried out by PhD student David Broderick and MSc student Tyler Regtien, in close collaboration with paediatricians Naveen Pillarisetti, Alana Ainsworth, Anna Mulholland and Cass Byrnes at Auckland’s Starship Children’s Hospital.  We also greatly value the immunological expertise of Dr Fiona Radcliff (Department of Molecular Medicine and Pathology, University of Auckland).


Acute bronchiolitis is a common cause for respiratory admissions both in paediatric wards and intensive care.  While the commonest cause of bronchiolitis is viral, there is increasing evidence for co-infection with another virus and also perturbation of the airway microbiome in children with severe bronchiolitis.  Much of the existing knowledge about bronchiolitis and bronchiectasis is based on cultivation-based studies, which can provide an incomplete picture of microbial diversity and therefore the role of these microorganisms in disease pathology.  We are applying cultivation-independent, DNA-based approaches such as 16S rRNA gene sequencing to more fully investigate the microbial role(s) in these important diseases of the lower airway. 


Our research in this area has been generously supported by the A+ Trust and the Asser Trust.