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The Human Microbiota: Composition, Functions, and Therapeutic Potential

Rick Conrad, Alexander V. Vlassov

Department of Research and Development, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Austin, TX, USA

Med Sci Rev 2015; 2:92-103

DOI: 10.12659/MSRev.895154

Available online:

Published: 2015-10-01


ABSTRACT: The human body – primarily (but not solely) the gut – is populated by 100 trillion bacteria and other members of the microbiota community, which play a fundamental role in our well-being. Deviations from healthy microbial compositions have been linked with many human diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, cancer, asthma, diabetes, and allergies. This review provides a high-level summary of human microbiome composition and known health effects, and highlights the typical workflows and tools used in microbiome research – from sample collection and storage to isolation and analysis of DNA. We particularly focus on multiple novel microbiota-based therapeutic approaches, including fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) and targeted bacteriophage engineering. Although our understanding of the microbiome and its interaction with the host is still in the nascent stages, it is becoming increasingly clear that we need to treat it as a sophisticated system, much like the circulatory and immune systems, that exists in harmony with homeostasis, playing multiple roles within the human body.

Keywords: Bacteriophages, DNA sequencing, microbiota, Microbiome