A clinician's primer on the role of the microbiome in human health and disease

Mayo Clin Proc. 2014 Jan;89(1):107-14. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2013.10.011.


The importance of the commensal microbiota that colonizes the skin, gut, and mucosal surfaces of the human body is being increasingly recognized through a rapidly expanding body of science studying the human microbiome. Although, at first glance, these discoveries may seem esoteric, the clinical implications of the microbiome in human health and disease are becoming clear. As such, it will soon be important for practicing clinicians to have an understanding of the basic concepts of the human microbiome and its relation to human health and disease. In this Concise Review, we provide a brief introduction to clinicians of the concepts underlying this burgeoning scientific field and briefly explore specific disease states for which the potential role of the human microbiome is becoming increasingly evident, including Clostridium difficile infection, inflammatory bowel disease, colonization with multidrug-resistant organisms, obesity, allergic diseases, autoimmune diseases, and neuropsychiatric illnesses, and we also discuss current and future roles of microbiome restorative therapies.

Keywords: CDI; Clostridium difficile infection; FMT; IBD; IBS; MDROs; OTC; fecal microbiota transplantation; inflammatory bowel disease; irritable bowel syndrome; multidrug-resistant organisms; over-the-counter.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmune Diseases / microbiology*
  • Causality
  • Clinical Medicine / education
  • Clostridium Infections / microbiology*
  • Clostridium difficile
  • Comorbidity
  • Curriculum
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / microbiology*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / microbiology*
  • Intestinal Diseases / microbiology*
  • Microbiota*
  • Neuropsychiatry
  • Obesity / microbiology*
  • United States