The human gut microbiome in health: establishment and resilience of microbiota over a lifetime

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With technological advances in culture-independent molecular methods, we are uncovering a new facet of our natural history by accounting for the vast diversity of microbial life which colonizes the human body. The human microbiome contributes functional genes and metabolites which affect human physiology and are, therefore, considered an important factor for maintaining health. Much has been described in the past decade based primarily on 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing regarding the diversity, structure, stability and dynamics of human microbiota in their various body habitats, most notably within the gastrointestinal tract (GIT). Relatively high levels of variation have been described across different stages of life and geographical locations for the GIT microbiome. These observations may prove helpful for the future contextualization of patterns in other body habitats especially in relation to identifying generalizable trends over human lifetime. Given the large degree of complexity and variability, a key challenge will be how to define baseline healthy microbiomes and how to identify features which reflect deviations therefrom in the future. In this context, metagenomics and functional omics will likely play a central role as they will allow resolution of microbiome-conferred functionalities associated with health. Such information will be vital for formulating therapeutic interventions aimed at managing microbiota-mediated health particularly in the GIT over the course of a human lifetime.

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