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Mutat Res. 2007 Sep 1;622(1-2):58-69. Epub 2007 Apr 6.

Importance of microbial colonization of the gut in early life to the development of immunity.

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Rowett Research Institute, Aberdeen, Scotland.


The mammalian gastrointestinal tract harbors a complex microbiota consisting of between 500 and 1000 distinct microbial species. Comparative studies based on the germ-free gut have provided clear evidence that the gut microbiota is instrumental in promoting the development of both the gut and systemic immune systems. Early microbial exposure of the gut is thought to dramatically reduce the incidence of inflammatory, autoimmune and atopic diseases further fuelling the scientific viewpoint, that microbial colonization plays an important role in regulating and fine-tuning the immune system throughout life. Recent molecular diversity studies have provided additional evidence that the human gut microbiota is compositionally altered in individuals suffering from inflammatory bowel disorders, suggesting that specific bacterial species are important to maintaining immunological balance and health. New and exciting insights into how gut bacteria modulate the mammalian immune system are emerging. However, much remains to be elucidated about how commensal bacteria influence the function of cells of both the innate and adaptive immune systems in health and disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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