The Mammalian Intestinal Microbiome: Composition, Interaction with the Immune System, Significance for Vaccine Efficacy, and Potential for Disease Therapy
Department of Medicine, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 0QQ, UK
Pathogens 2018, 7(3), 57; https://doi.org/10.3390/pathogens7030057
Received: 28 April 2018 / Revised: 11 June 2018 / Accepted: 15 June 2018 / Published: 21 June 2018
The mammalian gut is colonized by a large variety of microbes, collectively termed ‘the microbiome’. The gut microbiome undergoes rapid changes during the first few years of life and is highly variable in adulthood depending on various factors. With the gut being the largest organ of immune responses, the composition of the microbiome of the gut has been found to be correlated with qualitative and quantitative differences of mucosal and systemic immune responses. Animal models have been very useful to unravel the relationship between gut microbiome and immune responses and for the understanding of variations of immune responses to vaccination in different childhood populations. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying optimal immune responses to infection or vaccination are not fully understood. The gut virome and gut bacteria can interact, with bacteria facilitating viral infectivity by different mechanisms. Some gut bacteria, which have a beneficial effect on increasing immune responses or by overgrowing intestinal pathogens, are considered to act as probiotics and can be used for therapeutic purposes (as in the case of fecal microbiome transplantation).