How the microbiome could tackle antibiotic resistant infections in the lungs


Understanding how microbes contribute to respiratory health and immunity could help tackle drug resistant infections in the lungs, say scientists.


Miriam Moffatt, Professor of Respiratory Genetics at the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, presented her work to shed some light on the lung microbiome and the potential to develop new treatments at a recent Academic Health Science Centre (AHSC) research workshop.

Sixteen-million antibiotic prescriptions are given each year to NHS patients to treat lower respiratory tract infections… these prescriptions are a primary driver of antimicrobial resistance

– Professor Miriam Moffatt

Professor of Respiratory Genetics

Bacteria in our bodies known as the microbiome play many different roles in maintaining human health. For example, these bacteria act as a first line of defence against potential disease-causing germs. The benefits of healthy gut bacteria are well known but the lungs also have their own ecosystem of microorganisms that could be just as important to our health and immune system.

Maxine Myers caught up with Professor Moffatt to find out more about her research.

Can you explain in more detail about your microbiome research?

I am working with my research partner Bill Cookson, Professor of Genomic Medicine at Imperial College London, on how research into the microbiome could potentially tackle antibiotic resistant infections in the lungs. 

Sixteen-million antibiotic prescriptions are given each year to NHS patients to treat lower respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis. However, these prescriptions are a primary driver of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as they encourage bacteria to gradually evolve to become resistant to the antibiotics.

For example, patients with chronic lung conditions such as cystic fibrosis (CF) have many courses of antibiotics as part of their treatment and over time the bacteria in their lungs have become progressively resistant to a wide range of antibiotics. Several very aggressive superbugs such as Pseudomonas Aeruginosa have been discovered growing in the lungs of patients with CF around the world.

Why are antibiotic resistant infections so prevalent in the lungs?

Lung infections are very common and often patients are prescribed antibiotics which target a wide range of bacteria rather…

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