The cystic fibrosis airway microbiome
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PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Culture and molecular approaches have established that lower airway infections are polymicrobial. We consider how this new perspective in cystic fibrosis (CF) may affect treatment choices. RECENT FINDINGS: Standard clinical microbiology of CF infection exacerbations often fails to provide indications of microbial causes that may drive the onset of exacerbation and the anticipated bacteriologic responses to the usual parenteral antibiotics prescribed as treatment. Antimicrobial responses by nonclassical members of the CF airway microbiome may explain why most patients clinically improve. These other organisms contribute to disease either directly as pathogens missed by conventional microbiology or through synergy with conventional pathogens. With these considerations, therapy may best be guided by directed antibiotic therapy to numerically significant isolates. An example is the Streptococcus milleri group, which we now believe to represent new pathogens that profile the exacerbations of infection in the CF lung and that necessitate specific antibiotic therapy to prevent loss of lung function and reduce frequency of exacerbations. SUMMARY: A comprehensive understanding of airway infections offers the potential for improved disease management in CF patients. Accurate quantitative microbiology will be a prerequisite for routine intervention based on the polymicrobial perspective of CF infection exacerbations.
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