Chapter 8 : Evolution of the Normal Intestinal Microbiota and Its Pathogenic Implications

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Human beings live in close association with vast numbers of microorganisms that are present on the skin, mouth, and gastrointestinal tract. Although the small bowel and stomach can become heavily colonized by pathogenic bacteria and yeasts under some circumstances, the colon is the principal region of bacterial colonization in the healthy gastrointestinal tract, owing to the antimicrobial effects of gastric acid and bile salts in the upper gut and the rapid passage of digestive materials that prevents microbial overgrowth. While the effects are often subtle, intestinal microorganisms exert their influence on the host in many ways. Culturing studies have shown that the microbiota comprises several hundred bacterial species, subspecies, and biotypes, and that some organisms occur in higher numbers than others, although about 40 species constitute approximately 99% of all isolates. Pathogenic bacteria invading the body are affected by, and deal with, mucus barriers in different ways. Ulcerative colitis (UC) is one of the two major forms of idiopathic inflammatory bowel disease, and is an acute and chronic disabling condition that is essentially incurable and treated primarily with anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids. Many reactions are known in which enzymes produced by intestinal microorganisms form carcinogens from dietary precursors. Fecal bile acids are also related to the risk of colon cancer, because they are converted to steroids by intestinal microorganisms, which have procarcinogenic properties.

Citation: Macfarlane G, Macfarlane S. 2008. Evolution of the Normal Intestinal Microbiota and Its Pathogenic Implications, p 73-83. In Baquero F, Nombela C, Cassell G, Gutiérrez-Fuentes J (ed), Evolutionary Biology of Bacterial and Fungal Pathogens. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815639.ch8
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Table 1.

Factors affecting the evolution of the human colonic microbiota a

Citation: Macfarlane G, Macfarlane S. 2008. Evolution of the Normal Intestinal Microbiota and Its Pathogenic Implications, p 73-83. In Baquero F, Nombela C, Cassell G, Gutiérrez-Fuentes J (ed), Evolutionary Biology of Bacterial and Fungal Pathogens. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815639.ch8
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Table 2.

Summary of major bacterial infections of the human gastrointestinal tract

Citation: Macfarlane G, Macfarlane S. 2008. Evolution of the Normal Intestinal Microbiota and Its Pathogenic Implications, p 73-83. In Baquero F, Nombela C, Cassell G, Gutiérrez-Fuentes J (ed), Evolutionary Biology of Bacterial and Fungal Pathogens. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815639.ch8
Generic image for table
Table 3.

Potential reasons for failure of antibiotic therapies in UC

Citation: Macfarlane G, Macfarlane S. 2008. Evolution of the Normal Intestinal Microbiota and Its Pathogenic Implications, p 73-83. In Baquero F, Nombela C, Cassell G, Gutiérrez-Fuentes J (ed), Evolutionary Biology of Bacterial and Fungal Pathogens. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815639.ch8

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