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.