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The University of Southampton
Global Network for Anti-Microbial Resistance and Infection Prevention

New insights into upper respiratory tract microbes

Published: 3 July 2018
Nose and microbes

Researchers at the University of Southampton, led by NAMRIP member Dr Stuart Clarke, have discovered new insights into the factors affecting upper respiratory tract microbes.

In a new paper published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology, the Swab Study for the Microbial Analysis of the Respiratory Tract (SMART) found different carriage epidemiology of respiratory pathogens depending on what time of year the sample was taken. 

They found that the number of individuals carrying bacteria or viruses in their nose was higher in the spring/summer (May to August) compared to winter/early spring (February to April) and higher in older individuals compared to those up to 4 years old. Overall carriage was shown to vary with age, whether the participant recently had a respiratory tract infection, and the presence of other respiratory pathogens.

While, for most people, carrying a virus or bacteria in their nose is harmless, it is a precursor to infection, especially for those with weakened immune systems. Respiratory tract infections are responsible for over 2.8 million deaths per year worldwide.

Dr Clarke who led the study alongside colleagues in Medicine and Faculty of Natural and Environmental Sciences, said: “The difference in seasons was a surprise since it is generally assumed that carriage is higher in the winter months. However, it’s important to note that as it’s carriage this may not be reflected in disease due to other transmission factors but could be in at-risk individuals or if there were an epidemic or pandemic virus that made people vulnerable.”

Paper citation:

Coughtrie, Abigail L.; Morris, Denise; Anderson, Rebecca; Begum, Nelupha; Cleary, David; Faust, Saul; Jefferies, Johanna M.; Kraaijeveld, Alex; Moore, Michael V.; Mullee, Mark; Roderick, Paul; Tuck, Andrew; Whittaker, Robert N.; Yuen, Ho Ming; Doncaster, C. Patrick; Clarke, Stuart / Ecology and diversity in upper respiratory tract microbial population structures from a cross-sectional community swabbing study. Journal of Medical Microbiology, 18.05.2018.


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