Humans are meta-organisms that maintain a diverse population of microorganisms on their barrier surfaces, collectively named the microbiota. Since most pathogens either cross or inhabit barrier surfaces, the microbiota plays a critical and often protective role during infections, both by modulating immune system responses and by mediating colonization resistance. However, the microbiota can also act as a reservoir for opportunistic microorganisms that can 'bloom', significantly complicating diseases of barrier surfaces by contributing to inflammatory immune responses. This review discusses our current understanding of the complex interactions between the host, its microbiota, and pathogenic organisms, focusing in particular on the intestinal mucosa.
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