Inhaled nanomaterials and the respiratory microbiome: clinical, immunological and toxicological perspectives

Part Fibre Toxicol. 2018 Nov 20;15(1):46. doi: 10.1186/s12989-018-0282-0.


Our development and usage of engineered nanomaterials has grown exponentially despite concerns about their unfavourable cardiorespiratory consequence, one that parallels ambient ultrafine particle exposure from vehicle emissions. Most research in the field has so far focused on airway inflammation in response to nanoparticle inhalation, however, little is known about nanoparticle-microbiome interaction in the human airway and the environment. Emerging evidence illustrates that the airway, even in its healthy state, is not sterile. The resident human airway microbiome is further altered in chronic inflammatory respiratory disease however little is known about the impact of nanoparticle inhalation on this airway microbiome. The composition of the airway microbiome, which is involved in the development and progression of respiratory disease is dynamic, adding further complexity to understanding microbiota-host interaction in the lung, particularly in the context of nanoparticle exposure. This article reviews the size-dependent properties of nanomaterials, their body deposition after inhalation and factors that influence their fate. We evaluate what is currently known about nanoparticle-microbiome interactions in the human airway and summarise the known clinical, immunological and toxicological consequences of this relationship. While associations between inhaled ambient ultrafine particles and host immune-inflammatory response are known, the airway and environmental microbiomes likely act as intermediaries and facilitate individual susceptibility to inhaled nanoparticles and toxicants. Characterising the precise interaction between the environment and airway microbiomes, inhaled nanoparticles and the host immune system is therefore critical and will provide insight into mechanisms promoting nanoparticle induced airway damage.

Keywords: Microbiome; Nanomaterial; Nanoparticle; Nanotoxicology; Respiratory disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Immune System / drug effects*
  • Inhalation Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Microbiota / drug effects*
  • Microbiota / immunology
  • Nanostructures / chemistry
  • Nanostructures / toxicity*
  • Particle Size
  • Respiratory System / drug effects*
  • Respiratory System / immunology
  • Respiratory System / microbiology
  • Tissue Distribution