Testing of bacteria and viruses in the nose of children could give clues to improve the diagnosis and treatment of severe pulmonary infections, according to a new study.
Lung infections are the leading cause of death in children under the age of five in the world.
The study found that in infants with respiratory infections children change the composition of bacteria and viruses.
Researchers say the study helps explain why some children are more prone to developing infections than others.
It can also be the key to preventing serious lung infections.
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh found that differences indicate the severity of the condition and can help doctors predict how long a child should stay in the hospital.
They said that in less serious cases this could reduce the need for antibiotics and help children to naturally recover.
Prof. Debby Bogaert of the Research Research Center for Research at the University of Edinburgh, who conducted the research, said: "Pneumonia infections can be very serious in children and babies and are very alarming for parents.
"Our findings first show that the total microbial community in the respiratory tract – instead of a single virus or bacterium – is a vital indicator of respiratory health.
"It could affect how doctors diagnose lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs) and use precious antibiotics to fight infections."
LRTIs include lung inflammation and bronchiolitis.
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh worked with teams in the Netherlands to take samples of more than 150 children under six years of hospitalization with LRTI. They then compared them to samples of 300 healthy children.
They found that germs from hospitalized children, bacteria and viruses were found in the back of the nose and throat associated with those in the lungs, making it easier to understand and diagnose the infection.
The study was published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.