Issue: 2015 > February > review

The gut microbiota in internal medicine: implications for health and disease

J.M. Lankelma, M. Nieuwdorp, W.M. de Vos, W.J. Wiersinga
AbstractFull textPDF


The human gut microbiota may be viewed as an organ, executing numerous functions in metabolism, development of the immune system and host defence against pathogens. It may therefore be involved in the development of a range of diseases such as gastrointestinal infections, inflammatory bowel disease, allergy and diabetes mellitus. Reversely, certain therapies that are often used, such as antibiotics and chemotherapy, may negatively affect the composition and function of the gut microbiota and thereby the wellbeing of patients. As the microbiota research field is currently moving from association studies to intervention studies and even clinical trials, implementation of this new knowledge into clinical practice is coming near. Several therapeutic interventions that target the gut microbiota are being evaluated, ranging from supplementation of food components to transplantation of faecal microbiota. In this review we provide an overview of current literature on the gut microbiota in both a healthy state and a range of diseases that are relevant for internal medicine. In anticipation of gut microbiota-targeted therapies, it is important to realise the key function of the gut microbiota in physiological processes and the collateral damage that may be caused when disrupting this ecosystem within us.