Throughout the human lifetime, the intestinal microbiota performs vital functions, such as barrier function, metabolic reactions, trophic effects, and maturation of the host's innate and adaptive immune responses. Development of the intestinal microbiota in infants is characterized by rapid and large changes in microbial abundance, diversity, and composition. These changes are influenced by medical, cultural, and environmental factors such as mode of delivery, diet, familial environment, diseases, and therapies used. Thus, it is nearly impossible to define a universal standard for intestinal colonization and development of the intestinal microbiota. This review discusses recent data on the early colonization of the gut by microbial species, development of the intestinal microbiota, and its impact on health.
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