Bugs and the gut: an unstable marriage

Farthing, Michael (2004) Bugs and the gut: an unstable marriage. Best Practice & Research: Clinical Gastroenterology, 18 (2). pp. 233-239. ISSN 1521-6918

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There is a symbiotic relationship between the gastrointestinal microflora and the human host. Commensal bacteria provide essential nutrients to the epithelium and promote healthy immune responses in the gut. Commensal bacteria such as Escherichia coli can, however, transform into pathogens when they acquire genetic material encoding virulence factors such as adhesins, enterotoxins, invasins and cytotoxins.

Enterovirulent organisms ‘communicate’ with the host by a variety of diverse mechanisms; these underpin the pathogenic processes that are essential for the expression of diarrhoeal disease. Many of these mechanisms involve the activation of signal transduction pathways in epithelial cells. Classical pathways include activation of adenylate or guanylate cyclases to produce chloride secretion, and subversion of cytoskeletal functions to effect intimate attachment with or without invasion of epithelial cells. Other systems are also involved, including inflammatory cells and local neuroendocrine networks.

Understanding the complex interactions between the human gastrointestinal tract and the commensals and pathogens which it encounters will hopefully help us to exploit further the beneficial effects of the ‘marriage’ and to find new ways of preventing and treating microbial disease of the intestine which occurs when the symbiotic arrangement breaks down.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: gut microflora; evolution; symbiosis; commensals; enteropathogens
Schools and Departments: Brighton and Sussex Medical School > Clinical and Experimental Medicine
Depositing User: Adam Tickell
Date Deposited: 07 Feb 2012 15:52
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2012 08:29
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/36051
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