The composition of microbes in the lower respiratory tract is different for patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis

A new study from the University of Bergen shows that patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) have a different composition of microbes in the lower airways than healthy controls and patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a chronic, serious and rare lung disease whose prevalence has increased in recent decades. The cause of IPF is unknown. It is progressive, has a poor prognosis, and new treatments are urgently needed.

It was long assumed that the lower airways were sterile, but it is now established that the airways have their own “microbiome”. It is a collective term for microbes that are always present in the respiratory tract.

It was surprising that the IPF differed so much from the results of COPD and healthy patients. These results mean that we now have a better understanding of the microbiome in IPF patients.”

Kristel Knudsen, Researcher, Department of Clinical Sciences, University of Bergen

The flora of the oral cavity is one of the sources of the lower respiratory tract microbiome. For IPF, there was greater similarity between the microbiome in the oral cavity and in the lower respiratory tract compared to COPD and healthy controls. This may indicate that microaspiration is one of the causes of the “disturbed” microbiome observed in IPF, as shown in the study.

-The particularity of our study is that we measured both the oral cavity and the lower respiratory tract in the same patients. So we can now say with more certainty that the link is quite strong, which this study shows along with several other studies from our research group, Knudsen points out.

The research team already has follow-up studies and is now working with whole genome sequencing (WGS) of these samples.


Journal reference:

Knudsen, KS, et al. (2022) Lower airway microbiome and antimicrobial peptides in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis differ from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. PLOS ONE.

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