The role of the microbiota in surgical recovery

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Purpose of review

The purpose of this review is to highlight new research findings in the complex bidirectional crosstalk that occurs between the intestinal microbiome and the host immune system in the context of surgical recovery and outcomes.

Recent findings

Significant evidence has been generated emphasizing the central role of the intestinal microbiome on surgical outcomes such as wound healing, surgical site infections and anastomotic leak. Current preventive strategies, including the use of some parenteral antibiotics, may actually exacerbate the problem by selecting for drug-resistant pathogens.


A delicate balance exists between the human host and its microbial counterparts that is directly related to postsurgical healing. This balance can be easily altered in favor of the pathogen through perioperative and surgical interventions leading to intestinal dysbiosis and loss of colonization resistance. Current strategies to prevent infectious complications with the escalating use of broader and more powerful antibiotics are not an evolutionarily stable strategy. A more complete understanding of the ecological and molecular interactions of the host with its microbiome is necessary to uncover new therapeutic strategies that preserve the composition and function of the intestinal microbiome and constrain virulent pathogens through the course of surgical injury.

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