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, 57 (Suppl 1), 1-14

The Role of the Microbiome for Human Health: From Basic Science to Clinical Applications


The Role of the Microbiome for Human Health: From Basic Science to Clinical Applications

M Hasan Mohajeri et al. Eur J Nutr.


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.

Conflict of interest statement

MHM and ME are employees of DSM Nutritional Products, Kaiseraugst, Switzerland and as such no external funding was provided. HJMH received a research grand of DSM. RJMB, RAR, RKW, MF declare no conflict of interest.


Fig. 1
Fig. 1
Fermentation and gut microbiota. The figure shows the principle sources of nutrition entering the human colon at the top and the principle metabolic outputs at the bottom. Arrows indicate known cross-feeding relationships between the principle microbial groups present. Metabolites in green boxes are believed to be health-positive while those in red boxes are potentially harmful. Gaseous products are in orange boxes and the most significant intermediate products of metabolism are in blue
Fig. 2
Fig. 2
Effect of prebiotics on gut function and health. The figure indicates likely mechanism of prebiotic action in the gut. In many cases the suggested mechanisms are speculative at the present time. Physiological functions are in purple and health outcomes are in green. Abbreviations: FFAR2/GPR43, free fatty acid receptor 2; FFAR3/GPR41 free fatty acid receptor 3; GLP-1, glucagon-like peptide 1; GLP-2, glucagon-like peptide 2; IFN-γ, interferon gamma; IL-1β, interleukin 1 beta; IL-6, interleukin 6; IL-10, interleukin 10; LPS, lipopolysaccharide; NK, natural killer cells; PYY, peptide YY; Th, T helper cells; TGF-β, transforming growth factor beta; Tr, T regulatory cells; ZO-1 zona occuldens protein 1
Fig. 3
Fig. 3
A picture of the Gram-stained cells of Faecalibacterium prausnitzii growing in a colony inside agar seen as a big ball at the left lower corner, chains of cells grow away from this colony [80]. A typical single cell has the size of 3–5 µm in length and 1 µm in diameter. The bar represents 10 µm (Photo, M. Sadaghian Sadabad)
Fig. 4
Fig. 4
Development of the gut microbiome during infancy. The development of the infant microbiome is dependent on various factors, such as infant feeding method, diet and the environment. Also, the mode of delivery (either vaginal or by cesarean section) affects the early life microbiome. Transfer of bacteria from the mother to the fetus has also been shown, indicating that pregnancy may be important for colonization of the fetal/infant gut

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