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article imagePredicting lung disease in infants through new test

By Tim Sandle     Aug 15, 2016 in Health
Research into the human microbiome is revealing key information related to health and well being. A new tranche of this research has found variations to the microbial community in the lungs of infants offer clues about susceptibility to lung diseases.
When a baby is born, according to University of Alabama at Birmingham scientists, the lungs are already colonized with microorganisms. The members of this community can vary and variations in the microbiome (the totality of microorganisms within a given niche) correlate with either good or poor lung health.
Elisabeth Bik (@MicrobiomDigest) "Another piece in the ‘research mosaic’ that describes the role of the lung microbiome in COPD."
Lara Briden ND (@LaraBriden) "Researchers are increasingly interested in the lung #microbiome and how it affects respiratory health."
In particular the correlation shows that an early microbial imbalance (a condition referred to as dysbiosis) can predict the development of bronchopulmonary dysplasia (a type of chronic lung disease and the most common lung pathology of tiny infants). The other related factor is when the baby has an extremely low birth-weight (this is classed as babies weighing an average of 1 pound, 8 ounces).
According to the lead researcher, Dr. Charitharth Vivek Lal (of the University of Alabama Pediatrics Division of Neonatology) those prone to the disease had lower populations of bacteria from the genera Lactobacillus compared with babies not prone to the disease. In contrast, the at risk babies had higher numbers of the bacteria from the phylum Proteobacteria (a group that includes bacteria like Eshcerichia coli).
This has led Dr. Lal to comment: "We speculate that the early airway microbiome may prime the developing pulmonary immune system, and dysbiosis in its development may set the stage for subsequent lung disease.”
Based on this, should a baby be considered at risk due to the low birth weight then an assessment of the microbial content on the lungs should be undertaken using samples of saline aspirates. If the expected risk pattern is found then appropriate care can be provided promptly.
It is possible that future treatments could involve administering populations of Lactobacillus organisms, as a type of respiratory probiotics.
The new research is published in the journal Scientific Reports. The study is titled “The Airway Microbiome at Birth.”
More about Lung disease, Asthma, microbiome, Infants
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