Given the importance of the microbiome for human health, both the stability and the response to disturbance of this microbial ecosystem are crucial issues. Yet, the current understanding of these factors is insufficient. Early data suggest there is relative stability in the microbiome of adults in the absence of gross perturbation, and that long-term stability of the human indigenous microbial communities is maintained not by inertia but by the action of restorative forces within a dynamic system. After brief exposures to some antibiotics, there is an immediate and substantial perturbation and at least a partial recovery of taxonomic composition. Responses to antibiotics are individualized and are influenced by prior experience with the same antibiotic. These findings suggest that the human microbiome has properties of resilience. Besides serving to reveal critical underlying functional attributes, microbial interactions, and keystone species within the indigenous microbiota, the response to disturbance may have value in predicting future instability and disease and in managing the human microbial ecosystem.
© 2012 International Life Sciences Institute.