Smoking leads to lung inflammation that causes emphysema - a major health problem in Australia.

Emphysema progressively declines even if smoking stops and there are no treatments. Recently changes in gut microbes have been linked to inducing or protecting against inflammation in the gut and lung. Thus we may be able to control inflammation by modifying these gut microbiomes. We may be able to ingest specific microbes or use specific antibiotics or other factors as new treatments for emphysema.

Background: 

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), also known as emphysema, is the 4-5th commonest cause of death in Australia and the world and there are no effective treatments. It has an enormous socioeconomic burden worldwide. It is induced by chronic cigarette smoking, which leads to chronic inflammation, the progressive destruction of lung tissue, declining lung function and COPD. The “microbiome” describes all of the microbes that exist in an individual and new technologies enable the complete profiling of microbiomes in health and disease. We, and others, propose that a healthy microbiome protects against, whereas an altered one promotes inflammatory diseases, including COPD/emphysema. There is substantial immune cross talk between the gut and lung. We propose that modifying the gut microbiome may be a novel therapy for COPD. Microbiomes can be modified by microbial transfer, selective antibiotics and/or probiotics and their metabolic products, which effectively control other disease. The manipulation of the microbiome in COPD has not been investigated. 

The next steps: 
We now aim to determine the role and potential for modulating microbiomes and their products as new therapies for COPD. We now aim to;
1. Characterise changes in the microbiome during the progression and exacerbations (as well as induction) of COPD, as well as during standard treatments with steroids and antibiotics in mice.
2. Assess for the same changes in gut microviomes in people with mild to moderate to severe COPD compared with healthy people.
3. Design, develop and use specific antibiotics to prevent and treat changes in microbiomes and as new treatments for COPD 

Researchers 
Project type 
Project Grant
Year of funding 
2015