Exploring gut microbes in human health and disease: Pushing the envelope

Humans have coevolved with their microbes over thousands of years, but this relationship, is now being dramatically affected by shifts in the collective human microbiome resulting from changes in the environment and societal norms. Resulting perturbations of intestinal host-microbe interactions can lead to miscues and altered host responses that increase the risk of pathogenic processes and promote “western” disorders such as inflammatory bowel diseases, cancers, obesity, diabetes, autism, and asthma. Given the current challenges and limitations in gene therapy, approaches that can reshape the gut microbiome represent a reasonable strategy for restoring the balance between host and microbes. In this review and commentary, we highlight recent progress in our understanding of the intestinal microbiome in the context of health and diseases, focusing on mechanistic concepts that underlie the complex relationships between host and microbes.

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