Biological exacerbation clusters demonstrate asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease overlap with distinct mediator and microbiome profiles

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Abstract

Background:

Exacerbations of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are heterogeneous.

Objective:

We sought to investigate the sputum cellular, mediator, and microbiome profiles of both asthma and COPD exacerbations.

Methods:

Patients with severe asthma or moderate-to-severe COPD were recruited prospectively to a single center. Sputum mediators were available in 32 asthmatic patients and 73 patients with COPD assessed at exacerbation. Biologic clusters were determined by using factor and cluster analyses on a panel of sputum mediators. Patterns of clinical parameters, sputum mediators, and microbiome communities were assessed across the identified clusters.

Results:

The asthmatic patients and patients with COPD had different clinical characteristics and inflammatory profiles but similar microbial ecology. Three exacerbation biologic clusters were identified. Cluster 1 was COPD predominant, with 27 patients with COPD and 7 asthmatic patients exhibiting increased blood and sputum neutrophil counts, proinflammatory mediators (IL-1β, IL-6, IL-6 receptor, TNF-α, TNF receptors 1 and 2, and vascular endothelial growth factor), and proportions of the bacterial phylum Proteobacteria. Cluster 2 had 10 asthmatic patients and 17 patients with COPD with increased blood and sputum eosinophil counts, type 2 mediators (IL-5, IL-13, CCL13, CCL17, and CCL26), and proportions of the bacterial phylum Bacteroidetes. Cluster 3 had 15 asthmatic patients and 29 patients with COPD with increased type 1 mediators (CXCL10, CXCL11, and IFN-γ) and proportions of the phyla Actinobacteria and Firmicutes.

Conclusions:

A biologic clustering approach revealed 3 subgroups of asthma and COPD exacerbations, each with different percentages of patients with overlapping asthma and COPD. The sputum mediator and microbiome profiles were distinct between clusters.

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