The airways of cystic fibrosis (CF) patients provide a rich and unique environmental niche, prone to lifelong chronic infection by a diverse and dynamic polymicrobial community. Such dense microbial ecosystems have a network of interspecies communication between each member of the community, serving to modulate virulence, impact metabolism and contribute towards antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Currently no models exist which enable the long-term culture of a true polymicrobial community. Most existing animal models are only suitable for short term infection studies, often utilising relatively healthy hosts and which use axenically cultured clonal strains, providing little parallel to the complex biochemical interactions occurring within chronic CF infections. Here we describe a simple in vitro model utilising artificial sputum medium to allow the successful coculture of major CF-associated pathogens and begin to recapitulate and maintain the CF microbiome within a relatively steady-state. An in vitro model confers several advantages for studying widespread community changes and pathogenic interactions. Perhaps most importantly, in vitro models can be easily perturbed through the addition of antibiotics or introduction of new species/strain variants, allowing the impact of external stressors upon the emergence and changes in lifestyles of key pathogens to be effectively studied. A simple, robust and physiologically relevant CF model could be applied to address any number of fundamental biological questions surrounding interspecies interactions occurring within polymicrobial infections.

  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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