The microbiome of the lung

  • James M. Beck
    Reprint requests: James M. Beck, Chief, Medicine Service (111), Veterans Affairs Eastern Colorado Health Care System, 1055 Clermont Street, Denver, CO 80220
    Pulmonary Section, Medical Service, Ann Arbor Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Ann Arbor, Mich

    Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Mich
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  • Vincent B. Young
    Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Mich

    Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Mich
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  • Gary B. Huffnagle
    Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Mich

    Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Mich
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Published:February 29, 2012DOI:
      Investigation of the lung microbiome is a relatively new field. Although the lungs were classically believed to be sterile, recently published investigations have identified microbial communities in the lungs of healthy humans. At the present time, there are significant methodologic and technical hurdles that must be addressed in ongoing investigations, including distinguishing the microbiota of the upper and lower respiratory tracts. However, characterization of the lung microbiome is likely to provide important pathogenic insights into cystic fibrosis, respiratory disease of the newborn, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and asthma. In addition to characterization of the lung microbiome, the microbiota of the gastrointestinal tract have profound influence on the development and maintenance of lung immunity and inflammation. Further study of gastrointestinal–respiratory interactions is likely to yield important insights into the pathogenesis of pulmonary diseases, including asthma. As this field advances over the next several years, we anticipate that studies using larger cohorts, multicenter designs, and longitudinal sampling will add to our knowledge and understanding of the lung microbiome.


      COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), CFTR (cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator), Ig (immunoglobulin), IL (interleukin), Th (T-helper), TLR (toll-like receptor)
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