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2020 Apr 23

Sci Rep



Cell free DNA from respiratory pathogens is detectable in the blood plasma of Cystic Fibrosis patients.


Barrett S RL, Holmes EA, Long DR, Shean RC, Bautista GE, Ravishankar S, Peddu V, Cookson BT, Singh PK, Greninger AL, Salipante SJ
Sci Rep. 2020 Apr 23; 10(1):6903.
PMID: 32327704.


Diagnostically informative microbial cell-free DNA (cfDNA) can be detected from blood plasma during fulminant infections such as sepsis. However, the potential for DNA from airway pathogens to enter the circulation of cystic fibrosis (CF) patients during chronic infective states has not yet been evaluated. We assessed whether patient blood contained measurable quantities of cfDNA from CF respiratory microorganisms by sequencing plasma from 21 individuals with CF recruited from outpatient clinics and 12 healthy controls. To account for possible contamination with exogenous microbial nucleic acids, statistical significance of microbe-derived read counts from CF patients was determined relative to the healthy control population. In aggregate, relative abundance of microbial cfDNA was nearly an order of magnitude higher in CF patients than in healthy subjects (p = 8.0×10). 15 of 21 (71%) CF patients demonstrated cfDNA from one or more relevant organisms. In contrast, none of the healthy subjects evidenced significant microbial cfDNA for any of the organisms examined. Concordance of cfDNA with standard microbiological culture of contemporaneously collected patient sputum was variable. Our findings provide evidence that cfDNA from respiratory pathogens are present in the bloodstream of most CF patients, which could potentially be exploited for the purposes of noninvasive clinical diagnosis.