The Gut Microbiota and Inflammation: An Overview

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Oct 19;17(20):7618. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17207618.


The gut microbiota encompasses a diverse community of bacteria that carry out various functions influencing the overall health of the host. These comprise nutrient metabolism, immune system regulation and natural defence against infection. The presence of certain bacteria is associated with inflammatory molecules that may bring about inflammation in various body tissues. Inflammation underlies many chronic multisystem conditions including obesity, atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes mellitus and inflammatory bowel disease. Inflammation may be triggered by structural components of the bacteria which can result in a cascade of inflammatory pathways involving interleukins and other cytokines. Similarly, by-products of metabolic processes in bacteria, including some short-chain fatty acids, can play a role in inhibiting inflammatory processes. In this review, we aimed to provide an overview of the relationship between the gut microbiota and inflammatory molecules and to highlight relevant knowledge gaps in this field. Based on the current literature, it appears that as the gut microbiota composition differs between individuals and is contingent on a variety of factors like diet and genetics, some individuals may possess bacteria associated with pro-inflammatory effects whilst others may harbour those with anti-inflammatory effects. Recent technological advancements have allowed for better methods of characterising the gut microbiota. Further research to continually improve our understanding of the inflammatory pathways that interact with bacteria may elucidate reasons behind varying presentations of the same disease and varied responses to the same treatment in different individuals. Furthermore, it can inform clinical practice as anti-inflammatory microbes can be employed in probiotic therapies or used to identify suitable prebiotic therapies.

Keywords: cytokines; gut microbiota; inflammation; microbiome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / microbiology
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases* / microbiology
  • Prebiotics


  • Prebiotics