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Expert Rev Mol Diagn. 2010 Mar;10(2):187-96. doi: 10.1586/erm.09.81.

Lung infections in cystic fibrosis: deriving clinical insight from microbial complexity.

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Molecular Microbiology Research Laboratory, Pharmaceutical Science Division, 150 Stamford Street, Franklin-Wilkins Building, King's College London, London, SE1 9NH, UK.


Lower respiratory tract bacterial infections, such as those associated with cystic fibrosis lung disease, represent a major healthcare burden. Treatment strategies are currently informed by culture-based routine diagnostics whose limitations, including an inability to isolate all potentially clinically significant bacterial species present in a sample, are well documented. Some advances have resulted from the introduction of culture-independent molecular assays for the detection of specific pathogens. However, the application of bacterial community profiling techniques to the characterization of these infections has revealed much higher levels of microbial diversity than previously recognized. These findings are leading to a fundamental shift in the way such infections are considered. Increasingly, polymicrobial infections are being viewed as complex communities of interacting organisms, with dynamic processes key to their pathogenicity. Such a model requires an analytical strategy that provides insight into the interactions of all members of the infective community. The rapid advance in sequencing technology, along with protocols that limit analysis to viable bacterial cells, are for the first time providing an opportunity to gain such insight.

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