Bacterial communities in the gut

Bacterial communities in the gut Most of us know how it feels to have an upset stomach. In this article in Microbiology Today Ian Poxton informs us how the enormous number of microbes that live in our gut usually get on very well together, living in relative harmony with one another, but disturb the balance and …

The gastrointestinal tract contains one of the most complex and diverse ecosystems found on the planet. The micro-organisms (microbiota: mainly bacteria) inhabiting this harsh and varying environment have to cope with physical and chemical extremes, as well as the host’s immune defences. Bacteria inhabiting the gut must enter via the mouth. They traverse the acidic stomach, and then travel through the small intestine where exposure to the powerful detergent actions of bile and destructive enzymes are maximal and flow rate is high. Oxygen becomes increasingly limiting, and by the time the large intestine is reached the conditions are extremely anaerobic and many toxic metabolites are produced there. However, the microbiota should not be considered a constantly flowing stream of micro-organisms that will be ultimately all eliminated in faeces: many are adherent, and even those free in the lumen have a division rate that exceeds the flow rate, so reaching a steady state that prevents their wash through.

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