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What Kinds of Diseases or Conditions Could Be Influenced by the Gut-Lung Axis?

What Kinds of Diseases or Conditions Could Be Influenced by the Gut-Lung Axis?

Kent Willis MD FAAP
2 minute read

The recent development of next-generation sequencing technologies has led to an explosion in research that has greatly expanded our understanding of how the microbiome might alter the course of many lung diseases. At the present time, researchers have linked differences in the composition of the gut microbiome to differences in the severity of lung diseases such as asthma, acute respiratory distress syndrome, pneumonia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) ( Enaud et al. 2020 , Willis et al. 2020 ). This is a rapidly expanding area of research sure to bring many more exciting insights into lung health in the next few years.

Recent research also highlights the wide immune impact of the gut microbiome. One such example is in pneumonia, where studies show that mice with their microbiome removed become sicker and are more likely to die from pneumonia than mice with an intact microbiome ( Brown et al. 2017 ). Similarly, microbiome-disrupting broad-spectrum antibiotics prior to infection also result in worsen later pneumonia ( Robak et al. 2018 ).

In asthma, differences in the newborn gut microbiome predict which infants will later develop asthma. Specifically, lower diversity of the gut microbiome and decreased abundance of specfici genera of bacteria such as Lachnospira, Veillonella, Faecalibacterium, and Rothia were associated with increased disease risk and decreases in microbial metabolites. Intriguingly, when these microbes were transferred to mice without a microbiome, they protected these mice from developing asthma ( Arrieta et al, 2015 ). Recently this same group of researchers have also linked differences in certain intestinal fungi with asthma risk ( Arrieta et al 2018 ).

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