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INTRODUCTION:Pleural infection is a condition that continues to pose a significant challenge to respiratory physicians. We hypothesize that the main barriers to progress include limited understanding of the etiopathogenesis, microbiology,and role of antibiotics in the pleural space. Areas covered: PubMed was searched for articles related to adult pleural infection using the terms 'pleural infection', 'empyema' and 'parapneumonic'. The search focused on relevant literature within the last 10 years, with any older citations used only to display context or lack of progress. Tuberculous pleural infection was excluded. We chose to give specific attention to the etiopathogenesis of pleural infection, including recent advances in diagnostics and biomarkers. We discuss our understanding of the pleural microbiome and rationalize the current use of antibiotics in treating this condition. Expert commentary: Understanding of key events in the development of this condition remains limited. The microbiology is unique compared to the lung, and highly variable. Higher culture yields from pleural biopsy may add new insights into the etiopathogenesis. There is little evidence into achievable effective antibiotic concentration within the pleura. Research into issues including the relevance of biofilm formation and significance of pleural thickening is necessary for treatment progress.

Original publication




Journal article


Expert review of respiratory medicine

Publication Date



1 - 11


a Oxford Pleural Unit , Oxford University Hospitals , Oxford , UK.