Chinese immigrants living in Australia experience increased allergic conditions: asthma, eczema, hay fever and wheeze. Recently we reported diminished innate cytokine responses in long-term immigrants, potentially increasing their pathogenic viral load and microbial carriage. We hypothesise that a Western environment changes the nasal microbiome profile, and this altered profile may be associated with the development of allergic conditions. In this cross-sectional study, we aimed to examine the loading of viral and microbial respiratory pathogens in the upper airway.
Adult Chinese immigrants were grouped depending on time spent in Australia: short-term (<6 years) or long-term (≥6 years). First, age- and gender-matched immigrants were selected for an initial screen using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) micro-array panels. Then based on initial results the viruses, human parainfluenza 3 and rhinovirus, and the bacteria, Burkholderia spp., Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae, were validated using qPCR in the population. Associations for bacterial prevalence with atopic phenotypes were investigated.
Pooling the initial screen and validation subjects, S. aureus and S. pneumoniae had higher prevalence in long-term compared with short-term subjects (25.0% vs 8.1%, P = 0.012; and 76.8% vs 48.4%, P = 0.002). Those immigrants with nasal S. pneumoniae presence resided longer (average time 90.4 months) in Australia than immigrants without S. pneumoniae (52.7 months; P = 0.001). After adjusting for confounders, Chinese immigrants with S. pneumoniae carriage have a five-fold increased risk of doctor-diagnosed eczema (odds ratio, OR 5.36, 95% CI: 1.10-26.14; P = 0.038) compared to immigrants without S. pneumoniae carriage. There was a trend of S. pneumoniae abundance correlating with reduced host Toll-like receptor gene expression.
Our findings suggest that nasal S. pneumoniae may play a role in the development of allergic conditions in Chinese immigrants in a Western environment.

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