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One potential outcome of the adaptive coevolution of humans and bacteria is the development of commensal relationships, where neither partner is harmed, or symbiotic relationships, where unique metabolic traits or other benefits are provided. Our gastrointestinal tract is colonized by a vast community of symbionts and commensals that have important effects on immune function, nutrient processing, and a broad range of other host activities. The current genomic revolution offers an unprecedented opportunity to identify the molecular foundations of these relationships so that we can understand how they contribute to our normal physiology and how they can be exploited to develop new therapeutic strategies.
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