Endogenous Pulmonary Antibiotics
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The human lung produces a variety of peptides and proteins which have intrinsic antimicrobial activity. In general these molecules have broad spectra of antimicrobial activity, kill micro-organisms rapidly, and evade resistance generated by pathogens. In recent years it has become increasingly apparent that the antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) simultaneously possess immunomodulatory functions, suggesting complex roles for these molecules in regulating the clearance of, and immune response to, invading pathogens. These collective properties have stimulated considerable interest in the potential clinical application of endogenous AMPs. This article outlines the biology of AMPs, their pattern of expression in the lung, and their functions, with reference to both antimicrobial and immunomodulatory activity. We then consider the biological importance of AMPs, before concentrating on the potential to use AMPs to therapeutic effect. The principles discussed in the article apply to innate immune defence throughout the body, but particular emphasis is placed on AMPs in the lung and the potential application to pulmonary infection.
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