PerspectiveMicrobiology

Virulence or Competition?

Science  08 Jun 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6086, pp. 1238-1239
DOI: 10.1126/science.1223303

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Summary

The human gastrointestinal tract harbors trillions of bacterial cells belonging to more than 1000 species (1), and there are 10 times as many bacterial cells within the gastrointestinal tract as there are human cells within our bodies (2). The gastrointestinal microbiota plays essential roles in human nutrition, physiology, development, immunity, and behavior, such that disrupting the structure and balance of this community leads to dysbiosis and disease (35). This important balance between host and microbiota can be severely disrupted by environmental stimuli. One of the most common insults to the microbiota that induces dysbiosis is infectious diseases. On page 1325 of this issue, Kamada et al. (6) propose that competition between resident microbes and pathogens is influenced by the expression of virulence factors by pathogens and by the nutritional requirements of both populations. These dynamics can steer the survival, colonization, and clearance of pathogens in the gut.