Early-Life Formation of the Microbial and Immunological Environment of the Human Airways

Céline Pattaroni, Martin L. Watzenboeck, Sabrina Schneidegger, Silas Kieser, Nicholas C. Wong, Eric Bernasconi, Julie Pernot, Louis Mercier, Sylvia Knapp, Laurent P. Nicod, Colin P. Marsland, Matthias Roth-Kleiner, Benjamin J. Marsland

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22 Citations (Scopus)


Crosstalk between immune cells and the microbiota in mucosal tissues can set an individual on a trajectory toward health or disease. Little is known about these early-life events in the human respiratory tract. We examined bacterial colonization and immune system maturation in the lower airways over the first year of life. The lower respiratory tract microbiota forms within the first 2 postnatal months. Within the first weeks, three microbial profiles are evident, broadly distinguished as dysbiotic or diverse, and representing different microbial virulence potentials, including proteolysis of immunoglobulin A (IgA) that is critical for mucosal defense. Delivery mode determines microbiota constituents in preterm, but not term, births. Gestational age is a key determinant of immune maturation, with airway cells progressively increasing expression of proallergic cytokine interleukin-33 and genes linked with IgA. These data reveal microbial and immunological development in human airways, and may inform early-life interventions to prevent respiratory diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)857-865.e4
Number of pages13
JournalCell Host & Microbe
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 12 Dec 2018


  • early life
  • gestational age
  • IgA
  • IL-33
  • immune maturation
  • lower respiratory tract
  • microbiota
  • window of opportunity

Cite this

Pattaroni, C., Watzenboeck, M. L., Schneidegger, S., Kieser, S., Wong, N. C., Bernasconi, E., Pernot, J., Mercier, L., Knapp, S., Nicod, L. P., Marsland, C. P., Roth-Kleiner, M., & Marsland, B. J. (2018). Early-Life Formation of the Microbial and Immunological Environment of the Human Airways. Cell Host & Microbe, 24(6), 857-865.e4. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chom.2018.10.019