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Summary

Adenoid microbiota plays an important role in the development of various infectious and non-infectious diseases of the upper airways, such as otitis media, adenotonsillitis, rhinosinusitis and adenoid hypertrophy. Studies have suggested that adenoids could act as a potential reservoir of opportunistic pathogens. However, previous bacterial surveys of adenoids were mainly culture based and therefore might only provide an incomplete and potentially biased assessment of the microbial diversity. To develop an in-depth and comprehensive understanding of the adenoid microbial communities and test the ‘pathogen reservoir hypothesis’, we carried out a 16S rRNA based, culture-independent survey of bacterial communities on 67 human adenoids removed by surgery. Our survey revealed highly diverse adenoid bacterial communities distinct from those of other body habitats. Despite large interpersonal variations, adenoid microbiota shared a core set of taxa and can be classified into at least five major types based on its bacterial species composition. Our results support the ‘pathogen reservoir hypothesis’ as we found common pathogens of otitis media to be both prevalent and abundant. Co-occurrence analyses revealed evidence consistent with the bacterial interference theory in that multiple common pathogens showed ‘non-coexistence’ relationships with non-pathogenic members of the commensal microflora.