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Bacteria And Viruses In Children's Noses Can Indicate Lung Infections

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Researchers have found evidence that bacteria and viruses present in a child's nose may help improve the diagnosis and treatment of severe lung infections.

Microbiome In The Nose And Respiratory Infections

Lower respiratory tract infections, which include bronchitis, pneumonia, bronchiolitis, and tuberculosis, are among the leading causes of death in young children worldwide.

A new study now reveals that the makeup of bacteria and viruses in the noses of children could indicate respiratory infections.

Debby Bogaert, from the University of Edinburgh's Medical Research Council Center for Inflammation Research, and colleagues took samples from more than 150 children with LRTIs who were hospitalized.

After comparing these samples with those from 300 healthy children, they found that the composition of the microbiome was altered in the noses of children with a respiratory infection. The microbiome refers to the community of microorganisms that live in a particular habitat.

In hospitalized children, the bacteria and viruses found in the back of the nose and throat were related to those in the lungs, making it easier to understand and diagnose the infection.

"Lung infections can be extremely serious in children and babies, and are very distressing for parents," Bogaert said. "Our findings show for the first time that the total microbial community in the respiratory tract - rather than a single virus or a bacteria - is a vital indicator of respiratory health."

Potential Reduction In The Need For Antibiotics

Bogaert and colleagues said the microbiome may indicate the severity of a respiratory infection and help doctors predict how long a child needs to be in the hospital.

The difference can also spot patients who are likely to recover naturally, which can potentially reduce the need for antibiotics. Unnecessary use of antibiotics is notably driving current problem with drug-resistant superbugs, which experts fear can place millions of lives at risk.

"Our data suggest that the nasopharyngeal microbiota can serve as a valid proxy for lower respiratory tract microbiota in childhood LRTIs, that clinical LRTIs in children result from the interplay between microbiota and host characteristics, rather than a single microorganism, and that microbiota-based diagnostics could improve future diagnostic and treatment protocols," the researchers wrote in their study, which was published in the journal The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

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