A free to access paper published in the Netherlands Journal of Medicine in Feb 2015 explores the opportunities for health care management by understanding the role of the commensal organisms in the human gut, whilst there are many hundreds of papers published every month now on the microbiome and implications for care, there is still much to be learned.
Old views are being changed rapidly and that throws up confusion and concern, indeed the clinical principles explored since Metchnikoff mainly by non conventional clinicians have obvious but inconsistent implications, and as we constantly discover subtle variations in composition and gene variances relating to the organisms that reside in and on us, the implications are that we need to develop some additional skills (knowledge) to really make this metabolic organ work with us.
The human gut microbiota may be viewed as an organ, executing numerous functions in metabolism, development of the immune system and host defence against pathogens. It may therefore be involved in the development of a range of diseases such as gastrointestinal infections, inflammatory bowel disease, allergy and diabetes mellitus.
Reversely, certain therapies that are often used, such as antibiotics and chemotherapy, may negatively affect the composition and function of the gut microbiota and thereby the wellbeing of patients.
As the microbiota research field is currently moving from association studies to intervention studies and even clinical trials, implementation of this new knowledge into clinical practice is coming near.
Several therapeutic interventions that target the gut microbiota are being evaluated, ranging from supplementation of food components to transplantation of faecal microbiota.
In this review we provide an overview of current literature on the gut microbiota in both a healthy state and a range of diseases that are relevant for internal medicine.
In anticipation of gut microbiota-targeted therapies, it is important to realise the key function of the gut microbiota in physiological processes and the collateral damage that may be caused when disrupting this ecosystem within us.