Kaplan JL, Shi HN, Walker WA. The role of microbes in developmental immunologic programming. Pediatr Res. 2011 Jun;69(6):465-72. doi: 10.1203/PDR.0b013e318217638a. PMID: 21364495.
The role of microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract has undergone significant modification in the past few decades with new observations from clinical, epidemiologic, and basic science research. We now know that the perception of these gut microbes as pathogens or even as commensals is somewhat outdated. It is becoming increasingly clear that the gut microbiome plays an important role in a host of activities including digestion, protection from potentially pathogenic organisms, and the regulation and development of the host immune system. The complex interactions between microbes and host combined with recent clinical observations and epidemiologic trends may point to the convergence of two well-supported (though imperfect) hypotheses: the “hygiene hypothesis” and the “fetal programming hypothesis.” We are beginning to understand that exposure to microbes before conception, during gestation, and in the neonatal period have profound effects on the developing immune system. Recent observations from a variety of fields help support the expansion of the “fetal programming hypothesis” to a host-microbe corollary that microbe-host interactions at critical windows influence the future immune phenotype, the maintenance of immune health, and the development of immune-mediated disease.
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