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ILAR J. 2015;56(2):192-204. doi: 10.1093/ilar/ilv030.

The Intestinal Microbiota in Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

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Christoph Becker, PhD, is associated professor, Markus F. Neurath, MD, is director, and Stefan Wirtz, PhD, is senior scientist at the Department of Medicine 1 at the Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg in Erlangen, Germany.


The intestinal microbiota has important metabolic and host-protective functions. Conversely to these beneficial functions, the intestinal microbiota is thought to play a central role in the etiopathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD; Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis), a chronic inflammation of the gut mucosa. Genetic screens and studies in experimental mouse models have clearly demonstrated that IBD can develop due to excessive translocation of bacteria into the bowel wall or dysregulated handling of bacteria in genetically susceptible hosts. In healthy individuals, the microbiota is efficiently separated from the mucosal immune system of the gut by the gut barrier, a single layer of highly specialized epithelial cells, some of which are equipped with innate immune functions to prevent or control access of bacterial antigens to the mucosal immune cells. It is currently unclear whether the composition of the microbial flora or individual bacterial strains or pathogens induces or supports the pathogenesis of IBD. Further research will be necessary to carefully dissect the contribution of individual bacterial species to this disease and to ascertain whether specific modulation of the intestinal microbiome may represent a valuable further option for future therapeutic strategies.


Crohn's disease; animal models; inflammatory bowel disease; intestinal microbiota; ulcerative colitis

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