The lung microbiome plays a significant role on asthma severity and patients’ response to treatment, according to researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Medicine.

The study reporting their findings, “Atopic asthmatic immune phenotypes associated with airway microbiota and airway obstruction,” was published in the journal Plos One.

The impact of the lungs’ microbiome (the community of microbes present in the lungs) on lung disease has largely been ignored by the research community. Dr Patricia Finn, the study’s senior author and the Earl M. Bane Professor of Medicine at the university, saw this as something that needed to be investigated.

“The microbiome is the ecosystem of good and bad bacteria living in the body,” Finn said in a press release. “Because the lungs continuously and automatically draw air, and any number of environmental agents, into the body, the composition and balance of microbes in the lungs may have a profound effect on many respiratory conditions,” she said.