By: Dr. Shaina Cahill, Ph.D. (Director Medical Communications & Affairs)
Our microbiome is as unique as a fingerprint, shaped by genetics and environmental influences (such as diet, exercise, medications 1), and fluctuates throughout one’s lifetime2–6. Microbial colonization of the human gut begins during birth (possibly in utero), comprised of a complex community of microorganisms, including trillions of bacteria, quadrillions of viruses, fungi, parasites, and archaea, coming together to create one’s gut microbiome4,6–9.
The microbiome is vital for many functions within the human body, playing a role in the protection against pathogens, production of essential vitamins, metabolism, maintaining intestinal homeostasis, influencing gut-brain communication and modulation of the immune system1,7–9.
What comprises a healthy gut microbiome has been hard to define. Still, the general consensus is that having a stable and diverse gut community is related to a healthy intestinal state5,6,10. In a healthy individual, the gut microbiome is in a state of eubiosis, consisting of a diverse mixture of beneficial microbes creating a balanced relationship, which is beneficial for human health11–15.
In contrast to gut eubiosis, any changes in the gut microbiome composition that are associated with adverse functional outcomes are known as gut dysbiosis6,7,16,17. Gut dysbiosis can trigger infections and has been associated with diseases like inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, neuropsychiatric-related diseases, metabolic conditions, cardiovascular diseases, immune-related diseases or even cancer1,7,12,17–21. The list of diseases characterized by changes in the composition and functionality of the gut microbiota continues to grow with scientific advancements22. What defines gut dysbiosis varies between different disorders but is commonly characterized by low microbial diversity and environmental factors such as diet, lifestyle, age and antibiotics1,2,6,7,9,23–25. Specifically, antibiotics have been shown to affect both the gut bacterial community’s overall size and the community’s composition7,26. Overall, research is still needed to understand whether changes in the gut microbiome are cause, consequence or unrelated to disease, but restoring the gut microbiome to a healthy state with fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) is a therapeutic approach with promise22.References
1. Gomaa, E. Z. 2020, 2. Hall, A. B. et al. 2017, 3. Odamaki, T. et al. 2016 4.Perez-Muñoz, M. et al. 2017, 5. The Human Microbiome Project Consortium. 2012, 6. Wilson, B. C., et al. 2019, 7. Choi, H. H. & Cho, Y.-S. 2016, 8. Hooper, L. V., et al. 2012, 9. Sommer, F. & Bäckhed, F. 2013, 10. Lloyd-Price, J., et al. 2016, 11. Bresalier, R. S. & Chapkin, R. S. 2020, 12. Ser, H.-L., et al. 2021, 13. Thaiss, C. A., et al. 2016, 14. Thursby, E. & Juge, N. 2017, 15. Yang, I. et al. 2016, 16. Petersen, C. & Round, J. L. 2014, 17. Xu, M.-Q. 2015, 18. Johnson, D., et al. 2020, 19. Lee, L.-H. et al. 2019, 20. Lee, M. & Chang, E. B. 2021, 21. Ternes, D. et al. 2020, 22. Allegretti, J. R., et al. 2019, 23. Duvallet, C., et al. 2017, 24. Kriss, M., et al. 2018, 25. Sullivan, Å., et al. 2001 26. Britton, R. A. & Young, V. B. 2014.