Date: 11 Oct 2010

The Human Lung Microbiome

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The human lower respiratory tract is considered sterile in normal healthy individuals (Flanagan et al., 2007; Speert, 2006) despite the fact that every day we breathe in multiple microorganisms present in the air and aspirate thousands of organisms from the mouth and nasopharynx. This apparent sterility is maintained by numerous interrelated components of the lung physical structures such as the mucociliary elevator and components of the innate and adaptive immune systems (discussed below) (reviewed in (Diamond et al., 2000; Gerritsen, 2000)). However, it is possible that the observed sterility might be a result of the laboratory practices applied to study the flora of the lungs. Historically, researchers faced with a set of diseases characterized by a changing and largely cryptic lung microbiome have lacked tools to study lung ecology as a whole and have concentrated on familiar, cultivatable candidate pathogens.