The human gastrointestinal tract is home to an extremely numerous and diverse collection of microbes, collectively termed the "intestinal microbiota". This microbiota is considered to play a number of key roles in the maintenance of host health, including aiding digestion of otherwise indigestible dietary compounds, synthesis of vitamins and other beneficial metabolites, immune system regulation and enhanced resistance against colonisation by pathogenic microorganisms. Conversely, the intestinal microbiota is also a potent source of antigens and potentially harmful compounds. In health, humans can therefore be considered to exist in a state of natural balance with their microbial inhabitants. A shift in the balance of microbiota composition such that it may become deleterious to host health is termed "dysbiosis". Dysbiosis of the gut microbiota has been implicated in numerous disorders, ranging from intestinal maladies such as inflammatory bowel diseases and colorectal cancer to disorders with more systemic effects such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome and atopy. Given the far reaching influence of the intestinal microbiota on human health a clear future goal must be to develop reliable means to alter the composition of the microbiota and restore a healthy balance of microbial species. While it is clear that much fundamental research remains to be done, potentially important therapeutic options include narrow spectrum antibiotics, novel probiotics, dietary interventions and more radical techniques such as faecal transplantation, all of which aim to suppress clinical dysbiosis, restore intestinal microbiota diversity and improve host health.
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- gastrointestinal diseases
- faecal transplantation