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The intestinal microbiota in health and disease

Young, Vincent B.

Current Opinion in Gastroenterology: January 2012 - Volume 28 - Issue 1 - p 63–69
doi: 10.1097/MOG.0b013e32834d61e9
LARGE INTESTINE: Edited by Ciarán Kelly

Purpose of review The indigenous gut microbiota has been shown to be a key player in maintaining gastrointestinal homeostasis. This review discusses some of the recent work that reveals how the gut microbiome helps establish and protect intestinal health and how disturbances in this microbial community can lead to disease states.

Recent findings The use of culture-independent methods has greatly improved our ability to determine the structure and function of the gut microbiome. The gut microbiota has critical interactions with the host immune system and metabolism with bilateral influences shaping both the host and the microbiome. Alterations in the gut microbiome are associated with a variety of disease states but we are only now beginning to understand the mechanisms by which this occurs.

Summary Understanding how the gut microbiome contributes to intestinal health should lead to novel preventive strategies and therapies for a variety of gastrointestinal conditions.

Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Internal Medicine and Department of Microbiology and Immunology, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

Correspondence to Vincent B. Young, MD, PhD, The University of Michigan, 5510A MSRB I, SPC 5680, 1150 W., Medical Center Dr., Ann Arbor, MI 48109-5623, USA. Tel: +1 734 764 2237; fax: +1 734 763 4168; e-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.