Clinical Insights into Pulmonary Exacerbations in Cystic Fibrosis from the Microbiome. What Are We Missing?
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Pulmonary exacerbations account for much of the decrease in lung function and consequently most of the morbidity and mortality in patients with cystic fibrosis. These events are driven by an acute inflammatory response to infection. Recent technological advancements in molecular profiling techniques have allowed for a proliferation of microbiome studies of the lower airways of patients with cystic fibrosis. But these methods may not provide a comprehensive and unbiased measure of the lung microbiota in these patients and molecular profiles do not always translate to quantitative microbiology. Furthermore, these studies have not yet been able to provide much in the way of mechanistic insights into exacerbations or to guide patient therapy. We propose a model in which pulmonary exacerbations may be driven by an active subpopulation of the lung microbiota, which may represent only a small portion of the microbiota measured in a clinical sample. Methodology should be focused on the ultimate goal, which is to use the best available approaches to provide accurate quantitative measures of the microbiome to inform clinical decisions and provide rapid assessment of treatment efficacy. These strategies would be relevant to other chronic lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and neutrophilic asthma.
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