The human gut is home to trillions of microorganisms, and there is vast diversity within this gut microbiota. Research into the association of the gut microbiota with health and disease (including, among others, diet and nutrition, obesity, IBD and cancer) continues to expand, with the field advancing at a rapid pace. This special Focus issue of Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology brings together leaders in the field to provide an update on the latest research into the gut microbiota and to set the stage for future developments for clinicians and researchers alike. Four Reviews, one Perspectives and two News & Views have been specially commissioned on key topics within the field—from the development of the gut microbiota from birth to old age, to the part it plays in health, nutrition and disease (including IBD, obesity and after bariatric surgery), to the clinical applications of manipulating this microbiota.

An associated Nature Web Collection on the gut microbiota is also available online.

Image courtesy of H. J. Flint and S. H. Duncan.


Gut microbiota: Married to our gut microbiota

Katrina Ray


Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology 9, 555 (2012)


Gut microbiota: The gut microbiota is profoundly altered over the course of pregnancy

Isobel Franks


Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology 9, 560 (2012)

Gut microbiota: Colorectal cancer—driven by inflammation and gut bacteria?

Katrina Ray


Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology 9, 558 (2012)


Gut microbiota: Diet promotes dysbiosis and colitis in susceptible hosts

R. Balfour Sartor


Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology 9, 561-562 (2012)

Dietary and social modulation of gut microbiota in the elderly

James Kinross & Jeremy K. Nicholson


Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology 9, 563-564 (2012)


Microbial contact during pregnancy, intestinal colonization and human disease

Samuli Rautava, Raakel Luoto, Seppo Salminen & Erika Isolauri


Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology 9, 565-576 (2012)

The development of the gut microbiota occurs early in life. As outlined in this Review by Isolauri and colleagues, the initial microbial colonization of the gut, and indeed of the rest of the human body, is a stepwise process and interactions between these colonizing bacteria and the human host ultimately have a key influence on health and disease.

The role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health

Harry J. Flint, Karen P. Scott, Petra Louis & Sylvia H. Duncan


Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology 9, 577-589 (2012)

The human gut harbours a vast array of microorganisms and the benefits of these bacteria should not be forgotten. Here, Flint and colleagues discuss the role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health, describing the development of these bacteria in the healthy gut, and their positive influences on microbial and human metabolism.

The importance of the gut microbiota after bariatric surgery

Judith Aron-Wisnewsky, Joel Doré & Karine Clement


Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology 9, 590-598 (2012)

The gut microbiota is recognized to have a role in the development of obesity, and evidence indicates that the composition of the microbiota is modified after bariatric surgery. This Review summarizes current knowledge of the potential mechanisms by which major modifications of the digestive tract after bariatric surgery can affect the composition of the gut microbiota.

The gut microbiota in IBD

Chaysavanh Manichanh, Natalia Borruel, Francesc Casellas & Francisco Guarner


Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology 9, 599-608 (2012)

IBD is emerging as a worldwide epidemic. Patients with IBD often have an abnormal gut microbiota; however, it is unknown whether this feature is a cause or a consequence of disease. In this article, Francisco Guarner and colleagues review our current knowledge of the human gut microbiota, describe changes observed in patients with IBD and discuss whether such changes might explain the pathophysiological characteristics of IBD.


The gut microbiota—a clinical perspective on lessons learned

Fergus Shanahan


Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology 9, 609-614 (2012)

The changing composition of the human microbiota is linked with alterations in human behaviour and the rising prevalence of immunoallergic and metabolic disorders. In this article, Fergus Shanahan discusses the clinical implications of advances in human microbial ecology; the lessons learned extend beyond the gut and are germane to all clinical specialities.

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