The intestinal microbiota: its role in health and disease

Eur J Pediatr. 2015 Feb;174(2):151-67. doi: 10.1007/s00431-014-2476-2. Epub 2015 Jan 7.


The intestinal microbiota (previously referred to as "intestinal flora") has entered the focus of research interest not only in microbiology but also in medicine. Huge progress has been made with respect to the analysis of composition and functions of the human microbiota. An "imbalance" of the microbiota, frequently also called a "dysbiosis," has been associated with different diseases in recent years. Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis as two major forms of inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and some infectious intestinal diseases such as Clostridium difficile colitis feature a dysbiosis of the intestinal flora. Whereas this is somehow expected or less surprising, an imbalance of the microbiota or an enrichment of specific bacterial strains in the flora has been associated with an increasing number of other diseases such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease or steatohepatitis and even psychiatric disorders such as depression or multiple sclerosis. It is important to understand the different aspects of potential contributions of the microbiota to pathophysiology of the mentioned diseases.

Conclusion: With the present manuscript, we aim to summarize the current knowledge and provide an overview of the different concepts on how bacteria contribute to health and disease in animal models and-more importantly-humans. In addition, it has to be borne in mind that we are only at the very beginning to understand the complex mechanisms of host-microbial interactions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Dysbiosis / microbiology
  • Dysbiosis / therapy
  • Humans
  • Intestines / microbiology*
  • Microbiota / physiology*