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Erik Jensen, M.D.

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Does Bacteria Imbalance Play Role in Premature Infant Lung Disease?

Erik Jensen, M.D.

Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) is a chronic lung disease that affects 50 percent of surviving extremely preterm infants and is a strong risk factor of lifelong deficits in lung, heart, and neurologic function. Few safe preventative therapies for BPD exist. Recently, abnormalities in the normal balance of bacteria (dysbiosis) in the lung were identified as a contributor to chronic lung illness in older children and adults. Fortunately, therapies that restore the normal balance may improve lung function. Whether dysbiosis contributes to the development of BPD is an unanswered question. We will determine whether the microbial communities in the lungs of preterm infants who do and do not go on to develop BPD differ during the first month of life.

Update: Our preliminary data reveal considerable variability in the dominant bacterial organisms present in the airways of very preterm infants. We identified that the bacterial communities in the lungs of small babies are capable of changing within only a matter of days. Our ongoing research aims to identify factors that may contribute to the observed variability in the airway microbiome, the collection of bacteria living in the lungs, and to identify specific bacterial patterns that are beneficial and those that are harmful to very preterm babies. Ultimately, we hope this line of research will lead to new therapies that promote a healthy airway microbiome in high-risk infants.

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