The first thousand days - intestinal microbiology of early life: establishing a symbiosis

Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2014 Aug;25(5):428-38. doi: 10.1111/pai.12232. Epub 2014 Jun 5.


The development of the intestinal microbiota in the first years of life is a dynamic process significantly influenced by early-life nutrition. Pioneer bacteria colonizing the infant intestinal tract and the gradual diversification to a stable climax ecosystem plays a crucial role in establishing host-microbe interactions essential for optimal symbiosis. This colonization process and establishment of symbiosis may profoundly influence health throughout life. Recent developments in microbiologic cultivation-independent methods allow a detailed view of the key players and factors involved in this process and may further elucidate their roles in a healthy gut and immune maturation. Aberrant patterns may lead to identifying key microbial signatures involved in developing immunologic diseases into adulthood, such as asthma and atopic diseases. The central role of early-life nutrition in the developmental human microbiota, immunity, and metabolism offers promising strategies for prevention and treatment of such diseases. This review provides an overview of the development of the intestinal microbiota, its bidirectional relationship with the immune system, and its role in impacting health and disease, with emphasis on allergy, in early life.

Keywords: allergic disease; allergy; early life; gut microbiota; host-microbe interaction; immune system; infant; intestinal microbiology; symbiosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Hypersensitivity / microbiology
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intestines / microbiology*
  • Metagenome / immunology*
  • Microbiota / immunology*
  • Symbiosis / immunology*