The respiratory tract microflora and disease

  • Jean O. Kim
  • Jeffrey N. Weiser


The human respiratory tract harbors hundreds of different bacterial species. The purpose of the following chapter is to review some of the bacterial and host factors that contribute to the normal microflora and the infections that originate in this site. There is generally a peaceful state of coexistence between humans and the multitude of organisms that occupy the mucosal surfaces of the upper respiratory tract. Many bacterial species appear to be highly adapted to colonize this site, and in many cases humans are their only natural host. These are considered to be commensal organisms because in the absence of underlying mucosal damage or immunological dysfunction they live in the upper respiratory tract without causing disease. Several of these species are also common etiologic agents of disease both within the respiratory tract and at more distant host sites following hematogenous dissemination. The respiratory tract is also a common point of entry for many strict pathogens such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Streptococcus pyogenes (group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus) whose presence usually correlates with disease. These organisms are not a part of the normal microflora and will not be discussed in this chapter. Three species, Streptococcus pneumoniae (the pneumococcus), Haemophilus influenzae and Neisseria meningitidis (the meningococcus) will be reviewed in detail. These have been selected because they are members of the normal microflora as well as being etiologic agents of common respiratory tract and disseminated infections. Many of the host and bacterial factors involved in the diseases caused by these organisms are understood and will be reviewed.


Respiratory Tract Otitis Medium Bacterial Meningitis Streptococcus Pneumoniae Neisseria Gonorrhoeae 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean O. Kim
  • Jeffrey N. Weiser

There are no affiliations available

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