Colonization and impact of disease and other factors on intestinal microbiota

Oscar C Thompson-Chagoyán, José Maldonado, Angel Gil
Digestive Diseases and Sciences 2007, 52 (9): 2069-77
The aim of this study was to review the process of microbial colonization and the environmental and host factors that influence colonization and microbial succession. The impact of some diseases on intestinal microbiota composition is also described. Microbial colonization of the gut by maternal vaginal and fecal bacteria begins during and after birth. During the first 2 years of life, specific microbes become established in a process designated microbial succession. Microbial succession in the gastrointestinal tract is influenced by numerous external and internal host-related factors, and by the second year of life, the intestinal microbiota composition is considered identical to that of adults. Nevertheless, intestinal microbiota in both infants and adults remain incompletely characterized and their diversity poorly defined. The main explanation is that many intestinal bacteria that live in an anaerobic environment are difficult or impossible to culture outside the intestine. However, recent advances in molecular biology techniques have initiated the description of new bacteria species. The composition of gut microbiota can be modulated by host, environmental, and bacterial factors, and strong evidence has emerged of substantial modifications during illness or exposure to threatening experiences. It has been postulated that improvements in hygienic measures have led to an increase in allergic diseases ("hygiene hypothesis"). Alterations in gut microbiota and their functions have been widely associated with many chronic and degenerative diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, colon cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis.

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