Emerging science of the human microbiome

Gut Microbes. 2014 Jul 1;5(4):446-57. doi: 10.4161/gmic.29810. Epub 2014 Jul 11.


The human gastrointestinal tract hosts a large number of microbial cells which exceed their mammalian counterparts by approximately 3-fold. The genes expressed by these microorganisms constitute the gut microbiome and may participate in diverse functions that are essential to the host, including digestion, regulation of energy metabolism, and modulation of inflammation and immunity. The gut microbiome can be modulated by dietary changes, antibiotic use, or disease. Different ailments have distinct associated microbiomes in which certain species or genes are present in different relative quantities. Thus, identifying specific disease-associated signatures in the microbiome as well as the factors that alter microbial populations and gene expression will lead to the development of new products such as prebiotics, probiotics, antimicrobials, live biotherapeutic products, or more traditional drugs to treat these disorders. Gained knowledge on the microbiome may result in molecular lab tests that may serve as personalized tools to guide the use of the aforementioned products and monitor interventional progress.

Keywords: antibiotics; diet; dysbiosis; immune system; metabolic disease; microbiome; prebiotics; probiotics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Communicable Diseases / microbiology*
  • Health*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions*
  • Humans
  • Metagenomics / trends*
  • Microbiology / trends*
  • Microbiota*