Whilst the microbiota refers to all microorganisms living in a defined environment – such as the gut – the microbiome encompasses more than microorganisms alone1. It includes all their genetic material – from their internal molecules to the metabolites they produce, and even their host environment1.
Often referred to as the forgotten organ, the gut microbiome plays a key role in human health and disease, influencing immunity, metabolism, nutrition, gut health and function2, 3.
Dysbiosis of the gut microbiome has been associated with a number of clinical conditions, including gastrointestinal (e.g. irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal cancer, coeliac disease), metabolic (e.g. obesity, type 2 diabetes), central nervous system disorders (e.g. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases), autism and stress4.
Whilst it is very difficult to modify the composition of the gut microbiota after early childhood5, 6 supplementation with specific probiotics has been shown to have strain-specific clinical benefits7.
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