Ecological interactions in asthma: from environment to microbiota and immune responses

Curr Opin Pulm Med. 2020 Jan;26(1):27-32. doi: 10.1097/MCP.0000000000000632.


Purpose of review: Asthma is a heterogeneous condition shaped not only by genetics but also host conditioning by environmental factors. Recognizing the ecological context of microbe-immune interactions across environments and body sites is a necessary step toward better understanding how human microbiota influence or drive the pathogenesis and pathophysiology of asthma in its various presentations.

Recent findings: There is increasing evidence of a critical role for microbiota in asthma pathogenesis and outcomes across various body compartments, including the upper and lower airways, and gut. We discuss recent studies from this area including: development of a method to quantify microbial farm-effect in nonfarm environments, relationships between environmental microbial exposures and asthma prevalence across different geographies, microbiome-mediated responses to ozone, and microbiome-immune interactions within and across body compartments. Beyond bacteria, recent reports of asthma-associated differences in archaea and fungal organisms also are highlighted.

Summary: Collective evidence warrants application of an ecological framework to advance mechanistic insights into microbiota-immune interactions in asthma. This is necessary to achieve goals of developing successful therapeutic interventions targeting modification of microbiomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Asthma* / immunology
  • Asthma* / microbiology
  • Ecological and Environmental Phenomena
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions*
  • Humans
  • Immunity*
  • Microbiota / physiology*