Katrina Vollmer
Katrina Vollmer
Helios Scholar
School: University of Arizona
Hometown: Flagstaff, Arizona
Mentor: Keehoon Lee, PhD
PI: Keehoon Lee, PhD

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Evaluating concurrent sinus and pulmonary disease in cystic fibrosis: a microbiome approach

The human microbiome plays a vital role in our body’s health and defense, influencing our immune system, metabolism, and physiology. Investigating respiratory microbiomes has become a focus for comprehending the pathogenesis of respiratory diseases and host immune responses. Patients with chronic respiratory diseases, including cystic fibrosis (CF), exhibit lower microbiome diversity compared to healthy individuals. Chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS), defined as persistent sinus inflammation, is the most common otolaryngological manifestation of cystic fibrosis, affecting a large portion of CF patients. CF with CRS is associated with reduced bacterial diversity and increased bacterial load in the sinuses. The unified airway hypothesis suggests that CRS, combined with virulent sinus bacteria, can contribute to pulmonary exacerbations and respiratory health deterioration in CF patients. Establishing a correlation between sinus and lung microbiomes would enhance our understanding of CF progression and targeted interventions. Our project aims to characterize the microbial populations in the upper and lower airways of CRS and CF-CRS patients using 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing. We hypothesize that specific microbial strains or features initiate concurrent inflammation in both respiratory airways. Through taxonomic analyses and diversity tests using bioinformatics tools, we identified significant microbial features that contribute to our understanding of sinus health and enable improved treatment strategies for lower airway infection in CF patients. Additionally, our study contributes valuable data to discussions surrounding the unified airway hypothesis.