Human diseases are increasingly linked with an altered or “dysbiotic” gut microbiota, but whether such changes are causal, consequential, or bystanders to disease is, for the most part, unresolved. Human microbiota-associated (HMA) rodents have become a cornerstone of microbiome science for addressing causal relationships between altered microbiomes and host pathology. In a systematic review, we found that 95% of published studies (36/38) on HMA rodents reported a transfer of pathological phenotypes to recipient animals, and many extrapolated the findings to make causal inferences to human diseases. We posit that this exceedingly high rate of inter-species transferable pathologies is implausible and overstates the role of the gut microbiome in human disease.
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