The gastrointestinal microbiome is a diverse consortium of bacteria, archaea, fungi, protozoa, and viruses that inhabit the gut of all mammals. Studies in humans and other mammals have implicated the microbiome in a range of physiologic processes that are vital to host health including energy homeostasis, metabolism, gut epithelial health, immunologic activity, and neurobehavioral development. The microbial genome confers metabolic capabilities exceeding those of the host organism alone, making the gut microbiome an active participant in host physiology. Recent advances in DNA sequencing technology and computational biology have revolutionized the field of microbiomics, permitting mechanistic evaluation of the relationships between an animal and its microbial symbionts.
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