The Microbiome and Tuberculosis: Early Evidence for Cross Talk

mBio. 2018 Sep 18;9(5):e01420-18. doi: 10.1128/mBio.01420-18.


Tuberculosis (TB) is an ancient infectious disease of humans that has been extensively studied both clinically and experimentally. Although susceptibility to Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection is clearly influenced by factors such as nutrition, immune status, and both mycobacterial and host genetics, the variable pathogenesis of TB in infected individuals remains poorly understood. During the past two decades, it has become clear that the microbiota-the trillion organisms that reside at mucosal surfaces within and on the body-can exert a major influence on disease outcome through its effects on host innate and adaptive immune function and metabolism. This new recognition of the potentially pleiotropic participation of the microbiome in immune responses has raised the possibility that the microbiota may influence M. tuberculosis infection and/or disease. Similarly, treatment of TB may alter the healthy steady-state composition and function of the microbiome, possibly affecting treatment outcome in addition to other host physiological parameters. Herein, we review emerging evidence for how the microbiota may influence the transition points in the life cycle of TB infection, including (i) resistance to initial infection, (ii) initial infection to latent tuberculosis (LTBI), (iii) LTBI to reactivated disease, and (iv) treatment to cure. A major goal of this review is to frame questions to guide future scientific and clinical studies in this largely unexplored but increasingly important area of TB research.

Keywords: antibiotics; microbiome; tuberculosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antitubercular Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Disease Progression
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / immunology
  • Host Microbial Interactions
  • Humans
  • Latent Tuberculosis / drug therapy
  • Latent Tuberculosis / immunology
  • Latent Tuberculosis / microbiology
  • Mice
  • Microbiota*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / immunology
  • Tuberculosis / drug therapy
  • Tuberculosis / immunology*
  • Tuberculosis / microbiology*


  • Antitubercular Agents
  • Bacterial Proteins