The relationship between commensal microbes and their hosts has been studied for many years. Commensal microorganisms are known to have a significant role in regulating the physiology of their hosts and preventing pathogenic infections while the hosts' immune system is important in determining the composition of the microbiota. More recently, specific effects of the intestinal microbiota on the local and distal immune systems have been uncovered with important consequences for health and disease, and alterations in intestinal microbial composition has been associated with various disease states. Here, we will review the current understanding of the microbiota/immune system crosstalk, highlight the clinical consequences of changes in the microbiota and consider how to harness this symbiotic relationship to improve public health.
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