The respiratory microbiome in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis

Richard J. Hewitt, Philip L. Molyneaux


Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a progressive and fatal disease of unknown cause. Current evidence suggests that it arises in genetically susceptible individuals as a consequence of an aberrant wound-healing response following repetitive alveolar injury. Overt respiratory infection and immunosuppression carry a high mortality, while polymorphisms in genes related to epithelial integrity and host defence predispose to IPF. Recent advances in sequencing technologies have allowed the use of molecular microbial technologies to characterise the respiratory microbiota in patients with IPF. Studies have suggested that changes in the overall bacterial burden are related to disease progression and highlighted significant differences between the microbiota in IPF subjects and healthy controls. Indeed differences in the microbiota between IPF patients may differentiate those with stable compared to progressive disease. As our understanding of the IPF microbiome evolves, along with refinement and advances in sampling and sequencing methodologies we may be able to use microbial signatures as a biomarker to guide prognostication and even treatment stratification in this devastating disease.