The airway microbiome and disease

Chest. 2013 Aug;144(2):632-637. doi: 10.1378/chest.12-2854.


Although traditionally thought to be sterile, accumulating evidence now supports the concept that our airways harbor a microbiome. Thus far, studies have focused upon characterizing the bacterial constituents of the airway microbiome in both healthy and diseased lungs, but what perhaps provides the greatest impetus for the exploration of the airway microbiome is that different bacterial phyla appear to dominate diseased as compared with healthy lungs. As yet, there is very limited evidence supporting a functional role for the airway microbiome, but continued research in this direction is likely to provide such evidence, particularly considering the progress that has been made in understanding host-microbe mutualism in the intestinal tract. In this review, we highlight the major advances that have been made discovering and describing the airway microbiome, discuss the experimental evidence that supports a functional role for the microbiome in health and disease, and propose how this emerging field is going to impact clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Microbiota / physiology*
  • Respiratory System / microbiology*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / microbiology*