Gut Microbial Disruption in Critically Ill Patients with COVID-19-Associated Pulmonary Aspergillosis


Objectives: COVID-19 disease can be exacerbated by Aspergillus superinfection (CAPA). However, the causes of CAPA are not yet fully understood. Recently, alterations in the gut microbiome have been associated with a more complicated and severe disease course in COVID-19 patients, most likely due to immunological mechanisms. The aim of this study was to investigate a potential association between severe CAPA and alterations in the gut and bronchial microbial composition. Methods: We performed 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing of stool and bronchial samples from a total of 16 COVID-19 patients with CAPA and 26 patients without CAPA. All patients were admitted to the intensive care unit. Results were carefully tested for potentially confounding influences on the microbiome during hospitalization. Results: We found that late in COVID-19 disease, CAPA patients exhibited a trend towards reduced gut microbial diversity. Furthermore, late-stage patients with CAPA superinfection exhibited an increased abundance of Staphylococcus epidermidis in the gut which was not found in late non-CAPA cases or early in the disease. The analysis of bronchial samples did not yield significant results. Conclusions: This is the first study showing that alterations in the gut microbiome accompany severe CAPA and possibly influence the host’s immunological response. In particular, an increase in Staphylococcus epidermidis in the intestine could be of importance.

Journal of Fungi