What have we discovered?
Our research, which has been published in the European Respiratory Journal, uncovered complex patterns of interacting relationships within a diverse population of different species of bacteria in the lung. The research revealed how the fine balance of our lungs’ microbial community may be dictated by only a few bacterial groups.
A key finding was that microbial diversity was reduced during exacerbations, suggesting that having a diverse lung microbiome could act as an additional line of defence in fending off infections and protecting against tissue damage. Researchers also found that the different types of treatments currently used by COPD patients, such as steroids and antibiotics, can affect the composition of bacteria in the lung.
Understanding more about the more dominant species of bacteria in the lung could help us to identify new targets in the body when we’re developing future treatments.
“Looking at the way different microbes in the lung behave showed us that disturbing the composition of just a few of these bacterial groups may greatly impact the overall microbial community structure,” says Dr Zhang Wang, a GSK post-doctoral fellow and lead author of the paper. “The data gave us valuable insights into the relationships between microbes in the lung, the inflammation that can occur as a result and how this can affect a patient’s condition.”
More studies are already underway to confirm these findings in other groups of COPD patients. Together, these will allow us to better characterise different COPD patient groups according to the behaviour and balance of their lung microbiome.
Our ultimate goal is to harness the power of the lung microbiome to develop new medicines for patients.