BUGS present in a child’s nose could offer clues to improving the diagnosis and treatment of severe lung infections, research shows.
Scientists from Edinburgh University found that the composition of the microbiome – the population of bacteria and viruses – was altered in the noses of children with respiratory infections, compared with healthy peers.
This difference predicted how long children had to spend in hospital and helped spot those likely to recover naturally, potentially reducing the need for antibiotics.
Researchers say the results also help explain why some children are more prone to developing infections than others and could be key to preventing serious lung infections.
Lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs), including pneumonia and bronchiolitis, are a leading cause of death in under-fives worldwide.
Doctors from the University of Edinburgh worked with teams in The Netherlands to take samples from more than 150 children under the age of six hospitalized with LRTI. They compared these with samples from more than 300 healthy children.
Children with LRTI had a different microbiome profile – including the types and amounts of individual viral and bacterial organisms – compared with the healthy children, experts found.
The study is published in the journal The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.
Professor Debby Bogaert, an expert in paediatric infectious diseases at Edinburgh University who led the study, said: “Lung infections can be extremely serious in children and babies and are very distressing for parents.
“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.
“This could really impact on how doctors diagnose LRTIs and use precious antibiotics to fight infections.”