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, 28 (1), 26-39

Gutted! Unraveling the Role of the Microbiome in Major Depressive Disorder

Gutted! Unraveling the Role of the Microbiome in Major Depressive Disorder

Thomaz F S Bastiaanssen et al. Harv Rev Psychiatry.


Microorganisms can be found in virtually any environment. In humans, the largest collection of microorganisms is found in the gut ecosystem. The adult gut microbiome consists of more genes than its human host and typically spans more than 60 genera from across the taxonomic tree. In addition, the gut contains the largest number of neurons in the body, after the brain. In recent years, it has become clear that the gut microbiome is in communication with the brain, through the gut-brain axis. A growing body of literature shows that the gut microbiome plays a shaping role in a variety of psychiatric disorders, including major depressive disorder (MDD). In this review, the interplay between the microbiome and MDD is discussed in three facets. First, we discuss factors that affect the onset/development of MDD that also greatly impinge on the composition of the gut microbiota-especially diet and stressful life events. We then examine the interplay between the microbiota and MDD. We examine evidence suggesting that the microbiota is altered in MDD, and we discuss why the microbiota should be considered during MDD treatment. Finally, we look toward the future and examine how the microbiota might become a therapeutic target for MDD. This review is intended to introduce those familiar with the neurological and psychiatric aspects of MDD to the microbiome and its potential role in the disorder. Although research is in its very early days, with much yet to be the understood, the microbiome is offering new avenues for developing potentially novel strategies for managing MDD.

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