Microbiota-Mediated Immunomodulation and Asthma: Current and Future Perspectives

Opinion statement

Estimated to burden over 300 million people and their families around the world, asthma is now considered one of the most common forms of non-communicable disease worldwide (Masoli et al. Allergy Eur J Allergy Clin Immunol 59:469–78, 2004 1). The epidemic rise in prevalence this disease has seen over recent decades (Platts-Mills J Allergy Clin Immunol 136:3–13, 2015 2) suggests that environmental factors are the primary drivers of this phenomenon. In particular, the importance of early life microbial exposure and the composition of the early life gut and lung microbiota are emerging as key determinants of asthma outcomes later in life. Borne out of epidemiological data showing associations between the composition of the early life gut microbiota and later development of asthma, interest in harnessing the human microbiome as a therapeutic tool to prevent the development of asthma is rising. As research elucidating the mechanisms, specific microbial species, and microbial products mediating this link continues, it is becoming clear that, like the disease itself, the relationships between microbes and their hosts are highly complex and heterogeneous across populations. As a result, probiotic trials aimed at the primary prevention of asthma have been largely unsuccessful thus far. Future work aiming to apply our understanding of the role of the microbiota in health and disease to the prevention of atopic asthma will likely need to take a population-specific approach and has the potential to dramatically change the face of current asthma treatment practices.

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References and Recommended Reading

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank Dr. Lisa Reynolds, Kylynda Bauer, and Dr. Marie-Claire Arrieta for their critical review of the manuscript and thoughtful insights.

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Correspondence to B. Brett Finlay PhD.

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Rozlyn C.T. Boutin declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Dr. B. Brett Finlay declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Rozlyn C.T. Boutin was supported by a Vancouver Coastal Health-CIHR-UBC MD/PhD Studentship Award during the writing of this review.

Dr. Finlay is the UBC Peter Wall Distinguished Professor and CIFAR Senior Fellow. The Finlay Lab is supported by operating grants from the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR), AllerGen, and CIFAR-HMB.

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This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Allergic Asthma

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Boutin, R.C.T., Finlay, B.B. Microbiota-Mediated Immunomodulation and Asthma: Current and Future Perspectives. Curr Treat Options Allergy 3, 292–309 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40521-016-0087-z

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Keywords

  • Asthma
  • Microbiota
  • Allergy
  • Perinatal immune development
  • Atopy