Research Topic

Human gut microbiota: onset and shaping through life stages and perturbations

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Taxa distribution and density of gut microbiota habitants diverge in different individuals and is modulated by diverse determinants of temporal and spatial variability. Until the moment of birth, the gastrointestinal tract (GI) of a normal foetus is sterile. During birth and thereafter, bacteria from mother ...

Taxa distribution and density of gut microbiota habitants diverge in different individuals and is modulated by diverse determinants of temporal and spatial variability. Until the moment of birth, the gastrointestinal tract (GI) of a normal foetus is sterile. During birth and thereafter, bacteria from mother and surrounding environment colonize the infant’s gut. Rapidly after the birth, bacteria start to appear in the faeces in a few hours and reach 108 to 1010 per gram of faeces within a few days. The epithelium at the interface between intestinal microbiota and lymphoid tissue plays a critical role in shaping the mucosal immune response. When commensal/pathogenic bacteria homeostasis is broken up, the perturbation leads to immunological impairment and disease.

Gut imbalance occurring during early life can lead to diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Hirschsprung’s disease, respiratory and chronic pulmonary disease, immunological impairment, obesity and metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular risks, etc., along all life stages. Investigation on individuality of gut microbiota onset and modulation requires to speculate on genetic and epigenetic affecting factors. Indeed, relationship between breast feeding, gut microbes, and immune system response appears crucial. However, classical microbiology is underpowered by its inability to provide unbiased representation of gut microbiota. Failure to cultivate in vitro the majority (60–80%) of microbiota taxa hampers a fulfilling description. The advent of high-throughput-omics-based methods, through the holistic view of the “systems biology”, is opening new avenues in the knowledge of the gut ecosystem. In the coming years, the plasticity of the microbiota will be even exploited to provide new categories of therapeutics reflecting specific microbe-microbe modulation and microbe-host interaction.

Modern microbiology may concur in addressing one of the most complicated challenges of current medicine, which relies on the delivery of effective therapies tailored to exact biology or biological state of an individual, in order to enable the so called “personalized healthcare solutions”.

This Research Topic covers several aspects of gut microbiota, mainly focused on the microbiologist's point of view, but extending to complementary approaches coming from clinical research, immunology, genetics, genomics and proteomics.


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