Prenatal exposure to Hurricane Maria is associated with an altered infant nasal microbiome

Sandra Lee, Ai Zhang, Midnela Acevedo Flores, David de Ángel Solá, Lijuan Cao, Benjamin Bolanos-Rosero, Leran Wang, Filipa Godoy-Vitorino, Nicolás Rosario Matos, Leyao Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Prenatal adverse exposures have been associated with increased risks of development of respiratory diseases in children. The infant nasal microbiome is an important mechanism and indicator. Objective: Our aim was to characterize and compare the nasal microbiome of infants who were in utero and exposed to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico during 2017 with that of infants who were conceived at least 5 months after the hurricane as controls. Methods: We recruited 63 vaginally born infants, 29 of whom were in the exposure group and 34 of whom were in the control group. Nasal swab samples were collected and analyzed by using 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequencing at the community and taxon levels, respectively. Results: Infants in the exposure group were more likely to harbor a Staphylococcus-Streptococcus–dominant microbial community in their nose. The richness and diversity of the microbiome was significantly higher in the exposure group than in the control group. In the exposure group, the bacterial genera Rhodocista, Azospirillum, Massilia, Herbaspirillum, Aquabacterium, and Pseudomonas were enriched, whereas Corynebacterium and Ralstonia were depleted. Food insecurity due to Hurricane Maria was associated with an increase in Pseudomonas in the infant nasal microbiome. Conclusion: Infants who were exposed to Hurricane Maria during gestation had an altered nasal microbiome, with a higher prevalence of environmental bacteria. More research is needed to evaluate the long-term impacts of extreme weather events occurring in the prenatal stage on a child's nasal microbiome and respiratory health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-137
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: Global
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • asthma
  • disaster
  • extreme weather event
  • hurricane
  • in utero
  • infant nasal microbiome
  • nasal swab
  • Prenatal maternal
  • respiratory infection
  • upper airway bacteria


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