A brave new world: the lung microbiota in an era of change

Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2014 Jan;11 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S21-7. doi: 10.1513/AnnalsATS.201306-189MG.


The development of culture-independent techniques has revolutionized our understanding of how our human cells interact with the even greater number of microbial inhabitants of our bodies. As part of this revolution, data are increasingly challenging the old dogma that in health, the lung mucosa is sterile. To understand how the lung microbiome may play a role in human health, we identified five major questions for lung microbiome research: (1) Is the lung sterile? (2) Is there a unique core microbiome in the lung? (3) How dynamic are the microbial populations? (4) How do pulmonary immune responses affect microbiome composition? and (5) Are the lungs influenced by the intestinal immune responses to the gut microbiome? From birth, we are exposed to continuous microbial challenges that shape our microbiome. In our changing environment, perturbation of the gut microbiome affects both human health and disease. With widespread antibiotic use, the ancient microbes that formerly resided within us are being lost, for example, Helicobacter pylori in the stomach. Animal models show that antibiotic exposure in early life has developmental consequences. Considering the potential effects of this altered microbiome on pulmonary responses will be critical for future investigations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Mucosal / immunology
  • Inflammation
  • Lung / immunology
  • Lung / microbiology*
  • Metagenome
  • Microbiota*
  • Respiratory Mucosa / immunology
  • Respiratory Mucosa / microbiology*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents