The microbiota plays a pivotal role in the development and calibration of host immunity. Over many millennia, finely balanced interactions between the microbiota and host tissue compartments have evolved, imparting metabolic advantages and protection against pathogens, while restricting deleterious immune responses against innocuous antigens. Perturbations in host-microbiota crosstalk at critical developmental windows in early life may underlie allergy and chronic inflammation. Although the microbiota's of the gut and skin have been extensively characterized, the lung microbiota has also, in recent years, received considerable attention. This ever-expanding field is pushing the boundaries of pulmonary research, with potential implications for novel strategies in the treatment and prevention of chronic lung diseases. In this article, we provide a summary of the development of the microbiota in early life, and describe the evidence from human and murine studies of how microbial dysbiosis in early life can alter the trajectory of immune development and provide the setting for allergic disorders in later life.
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