Examination of bacteria and viruses in children's noses can provide clues to improve the diagnosis and treatment of severe lung infections, a new study has found.
Lung infections are a leading cause of death in abdomen throughout the world.
The study found that makeup of bacteria and viruses changed in the nose of children with respiratory infections.
Researchers say the study helps explain why some children are more likely to develop infections than others.
It can also be the key to preventing serious lung infections.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found that the differences indicated the severity of the condition and can help doctors predict how long the child needs to stay in the hospital.
They said that in less severe cases it may reduce the need for antibiotics and help some children recover naturally.
Prof Debby Bogaert, of the University of Edinburgh Medical Research Council for Inflammation Research, who led the study, said: "Lung infections can be extremely serious in children and infants, and are very worried about parents.
"Our results show for the first time that the overall microbial community in the airways – instead of a single virus or bacterium – is an important indicator of respiratory health.
"This can really affect how doctors diagnose lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs) and use valuable antibiotics to fight infections."
LRTIs include pneumonia and bronchiolitis.
University of Edinburgh researchers worked with teams in the Netherlands to sample more than 150 children under the age of six in hospitals with LRTIs. They then compared these with samples from 300 healthy children.
They found that the microbiome of the hospitalized children, bacteria and viruses in the nose and throat were related to that seen in the lungs, which made it easier to understand and diagnose the infection.
The study is published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine magazine.