The microbiome-systemic diseases connection

Oral Dis. 2016 Nov;22(8):719-734. doi: 10.1111/odi.12472. Epub 2016 Apr 26.


The human microbiome consists of all microorganisms occupying the skin, mucous membranes and intestinal tract of the human body. The contact of the mucosal immune system with the human microbiome is a balanced interplay between defence mechanisms of the immune system and symbiotic or pathogenic microbial factors, such as microbial antigens and metabolites. In systemic autoimmune diseases (SADs) such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus and Sjögren's syndrome, the immune system is deranged to a chronic inflammatory state and autoantibodies are an important hallmark. Specific bacteria and/or a dysbiosis in the human microbiome can lead to local mucosal inflammation and increased intestinal permeability. Proinflammatory lymphocytes and cytokines can spread to the systemic circulation and increase the risk of inflammation at distant anatomical sites, such as the joints or salivary glands. Increased intestinal permeability increases antigen exposure and the risk of autoantibody production. If the human microbiome indeed plays such a critical role in SADs, this finding holds a great promise for new therapeutic strategies, such as diet interventions and probiotics and prebiotics. This review provides a background on the human microbiome and mucosal immunity in the gut and oral cavity and gives a summary of the current knowledge on the microbiome-SADs connection.

Keywords: autoimmune disease; autoinflammatory diseases; bacteria; immunology; immunopathology; inflammatory diseases; microbiology; pathogenesis; rheumatology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmune Diseases / etiology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / microbiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome
  • Humans
  • Immunity / physiology
  • Microbiota*
  • Mouth / microbiology*
  • Mouth Mucosa / immunology
  • Mouth Mucosa / microbiology