Microbial Interactions in the Respiratory Tract


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Abstract

Upper respiratory tract infections are caused by the synergistic and antagonistic interactions between upper respiratory tract viruses and 3 predominant bacterial pathogens: Streptococcus pneumoniae, nontypeable Haemophilusinfluenzae (NTHi), and Moraxella catarrhalis, which are members of the commensal flora of the nasopharynx.For many bacterial pathogens, colonization of host mucosal surfaces is a first and necessary step in the infectious process. S. pneumoniae and H. influenzae have intricate interactions in the nasopharynx. The host innate immune response may influence these interactions and therefore influence the composition of the colonizing flora and the invading bacteria.S. pneumoniae, nontypeable H. influenzae, and M. catarrhalis can behave as opportunistic pathogens of the middle ear when conditions are optimal. Chronic otitis media (OM) and recurrent OM include a biofilm component. Each of the 3 predominant pathogens of OM can form a biofilm and have been shown to comprise biofilms present on middle ear mucosa specimens recovered from children with recurrent or chronic OM. Some of these characterized biofilms are of mixed bacterial etiology, suggesting that progress made on single-microbe directed strategies for treatment and/or prevention of OM, although highly encouraging, are likely to be inadequate.A significantly greater understanding about microbial physiology is required as it relates to the involvement of biofilms in OM, to identify points in the natural course of the disease that are perhaps more amenable to treatment strategies, as well as to identify biofilm-relevant antigenic targets that would be helpful in the rational design of vaccines to prevent OM.

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