Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is characterised by impaired lung function and is associated with significant mortality.[2,7] Sudden and temporary worsening of COPD symptoms are called acute exacerbations. Patients experiencing worsening of symptoms often require additional medical treatment and need hospital care. [2,6,8]
One of the difficulties in the management of COPD is how different the condition can be from one patient to another in terms of progression, severity, symptoms and risk of death.
Exacerbations in any two patients with COPD may not be the same which makes it difficult for clinicians to identify patients at higher risk or those who would benefit from certain treatments.[2,6,9] The lung microbiome is helping to understand these differences.
Evidence has shown distinct bacterial communities in the lungs of COPD patients compared to healthy subjects, and that COPD patients with a reduction in variety of bacteria have more severe disease.[2,7,8] The lung microbiome is also helping to differentiate the types of exacerbations and factors that may lead to them. During an exacerbation, the lung microbiome alters, and studies have reported differences in the variety and quantity of bacteria present during stable disease and exacerbations.[2,7,8]
How are we using the lung microbiome in respiratory research?
With a 50 year history in respiratory disease research, we continue to look to the future, striving to find new ways to improve the lives of patients with respiratory conditions. Our research is investigating how changes in the different bacterial groups in the lung can inform the management of respiratory conditions and identify new targets in order to develop new treatments.