A diverse community of trillions of commensal bacteria inhabits mucosal and epidermal surfaces in humans and plays an important role in defense against pathogens, including respiratory pathogens. Commensal bacteria act on the host's immune system to induce protective responses that prevent colonization and invasion by pathogens. On the other hand, these bacteria can directly inhibit the growth of respiratory pathogens by producing antimicrobial products/signals and competing for nutrients and adhesion sites. Such mechanisms preserve the niche for commensal bacteria and support the host in containing respiratory infections. Herein, we discuss current evidence on the role of commensal bacteria in conferring protection against respiratory pathogens and the underlying mechanisms by which these bacteria do so. A deeper knowledge of how commensal bacteria interact with the host and pathogens might provide new insights that are poised to aid in the development of vaccines and therapeutics that target infectious diseases.
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