Review Article

JTD special edition ‘Hot Topics in COPD’—The microbiome in COPD

Daniel C. Chambers, Shaan L. Gellatly, Philip Hugenholtz, Philip M. Hansbro


The pathogenesis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and its exacerbations, are intricately linked to colonisation and infection with bacteria and other microbes. Despite their undeniable importance, we have a poor understanding of the complex relationships between COPD phenotypes, physiology, cellular and molecular biology and the roles of colonising microbe or infecting pathogens. The management algorithms for the care of patients with COPD that include microbial influences, have almost exclusively been developed using microbial methods that were entirely dependent on the ability to grow bacteria on suitable media. The shortcomings of this approach are becoming clear now that it is possible to completely and accurately define the microbial ecology of ecosystems using genomic methods, which do not rely on the ability to cultivate the organisms present. Whilst our appreciation of the relationships between some bacterial ecosystems and the organ in which they reside in humans is now relatively advanced, this is not true for lung. This perspective serves to highlight the growing importance of including an accurate description of bacterial ecology in any attempt to decipher the pathobiology of COPD. While this field is in its infancy, there is significant potential to gain new insights which will translate into more rational and effective treatment algorithms for patients with COPD.

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