The role of the microbiome for human health: from basic science to clinical applications

Eur J Nutr. 2018 May;57(Suppl 1):1-14. doi: 10.1007/s00394-018-1703-4.


The 2017 annual symposium organized by the University Medical Center Groningen in The Netherlands focused on the role of the gut microbiome in human health and disease. Experts from academia and industry examined interactions of prebiotics, probiotics, or vitamins with the gut microbiome in health and disease, the development of the microbiome in early-life and the role of the microbiome on the gut-brain axis. The gut microbiota changes dramatically during pregnancy and intrinsic factors (such as stress), in addition to extrinsic factors (such as diet, and drugs) influence the composition and activity of the gut microbiome throughout life. Microbial metabolites, e.g. short-chain fatty acids affect gut-brain signaling and the immune response. The gut microbiota has a regulatory role on anxiety, mood, cognition and pain which is exerted via the gut-brain axis. Ingestion of prebiotics or probiotics has been used to treat a range of conditions including constipation, allergic reactions and infections in infancy, and IBS. Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) highly effective for treating recurrent Clostridium difficile infections. The gut microbiome affects virtually all aspects of human health, but the degree of scientific evidence, the models and technologies and the understanding of mechanisms of action vary considerably from one benefit area to the other. For a clinical practice to be broadly accepted, the mode of action, the therapeutic window, and potential side effects need to thoroughly be investigated. This calls for further coordinated state-of-the art research to better understand and document the human gut microbiome's effects on human health.

Keywords: Colonic fermentation; Gut; Gut-brain axis; Inflammatory bowel disease; Irritable bowel syndrome; Microbiota; Obesity; Prebiotics; Probiotics; Vitamins.

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology
  • Clostridium Infections
  • Diet
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile
  • Female
  • Fermentation
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Immunity
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
  • Intestines / growth & development
  • Intestines / microbiology
  • Microbiota / physiology*
  • Netherlands
  • Prebiotics / administration & dosage
  • Pregnancy
  • Probiotics / administration & dosage
  • Signal Transduction
  • Vitamins / administration & dosage


  • Fatty Acids, Volatile
  • Prebiotics
  • Vitamins