In humans, a complex interaction between the host immune system and commensal microbiota is required to maintain gut homeostasis. In this symbiotic relationship, the microbiota provides carbohydrate fermentation and digestion, vitamin synthesis and gut-associated lymphoid tissue development, as well as preventing colonization by pathobionts, whereas the host offers a niche and nutrients for the survival of the microbiota. However, when this mutualistic relationship is compromised and an altered interaction between immune cells and microorganisms occurs, the gut microbiota may cause or contribute to the establishment of infectious diseases and trigger autoimmune diseases. Researchers have made efforts to clarify the role of the microbiota in autoimmune disease development and find new therapeutic approaches to treat immune-mediated diseases. However, the exact mechanisms involved in the dysbiosis and breakdown of the gut epithelial barrier are currently unknown. Here, we provide a general overview of studies describing gut microbiota perturbations in animal models of autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus. Moreover, we include the main studies concerning dysbiosis in humans and a critical discussion of the existing data on the use of probiotics in these autoimmune diseases.
Keywords: autoimmunity; dysbiosis; gut barrier; inflammation; probiotics.
© 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.