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Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 2004 Apr;18(2):387-404.

Microbial-gut interactions in health and disease. Mucosal immune responses.

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Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, DHSS/FDA/CFSAN, 5100 Paint Branch Parkway, Mail Code HFS 6, Room 2B-003, College Park, MD 20740-3835, USA.


The host gastrointestinal tract is exposed to countless numbers of foreign antigens and has embedded a unique and complex network of immunological and non-immunological mechanisms, often termed the gastrointestinal 'mucosal barrier', to protect the host from potentially harmful pathogens while at the same time 'tolerating' other resident microbes to allow absorption and utilization of nutrients. Of the many important roles of this barrier, it is the distinct responsibility of the mucosal immune system to sample and discriminate between harmful and beneficial antigens and to prevent entry of food-borne pathogens through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This system comprises an immunological network termed the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) that consists of unique arrangements of B cells, T cells and phagocytes which sample luminal antigens through specialized epithelia termed the follicle associated epithelia (FAE) and orchestrate co-ordinated molecular responses between immune cells and other components of the mucosal barrier. Certain pathogens have developed ways to bypass and/or withstand defence by the mucosal immune system to establish disease in the host. Some 'opportunistic' pathogens (such as Clostridium difficile) take advantage of host or other factors (diet, stress, antibiotic use) which may alter or weaken the response of the immune system. Other pathogens have developed mechanisms for invading gastrointestinal epithelium and evading phagocytosis/destruction by immune system defences. Once cellular invasion occurs, host responses are activated to limit local mucosal damage and repel the foreign influence. Some pathogens (Shigella spp, parasites and viruses) primarily establish localized disease while others (Salmonella, Yersinia, Listeria) use the lymphatic system to enter organs or the bloodstream and cause more systemic illness. In some cases, pathogens (Helicobacter pylori and Salmonella typhi) colonize the GI tract or associated lymphoid structures for extended periods of time and these persistent pathogens may also be potential triggers for other chronic or inflammatory diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease and malignancies. The ability of certain pathogens to avoid or withstand the host's immune assault and/or utilize these host responses to their own advantage (i.e. enhance further colonization) will dictate the pathogen's success in promoting illness and furthering its own survival.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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