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Immunol Rev. 2013 Sep;255(1):222-9. doi: 10.1111/imr.12097.

Dual role of commensal bacteria in viral infections.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


With our abilities to culture and sequence the commensal bacteria that dwell on and within a host, we can now study the host in its entirety, as a supraorganism that must be navigated by the pathogen invader. At present, the majority of studies have focused on the interaction between the host's microbiota and bacterial pathogens. This is not unwarranted, given that bacterial pathogens must compete with commensal organisms for the limited territory afforded by the host. However, viral pathogens also enter the host through surfaces coated with microbial life and encounter an immune system shaped by this symbiotic community. Therefore, we believe that the microbiota cannot be ignored when examining the interplay between the host and viral pathogens. Here, we review work that details mechanisms by which the microbiota either promotes or inhibits viral replication and virally induced pathogenesis. The impact of the microbitota on viral infection promises to be a new and exciting avenue of investigation, which will ultimately lead to better treatments and preventions of virally induced disease.


germ-free mice; immune response; microbiota; viruses

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