alexa Digestive Physiology and the Role of Microorganisms


Clinical Microbiology: Open Access

Author(s): G Tellez, S E Higgins, A M Donoghue, B M Hargis

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The gastrointestinal tract contains within it a microenvironment of bacteria that influences the host animal in many ways. The microflora can metabolize several nutrients that the host cannot digest and converts these to end products (such as short-chain fatty acids), a process that has a direct impact on digestive physiology. The microbiota directs the assembly of the gut-associated lymphoid tissue, helps educate the immune system, affects the integrity of the intestinal mucosal barrier, modulates proliferation and differentiation of its epithelial lineages, regulates angiogenesis, modifies the activity of the enteric nervous system, and plays a key role in extracting and processing nutrients consumed in the diet. Despite these important effects, the mechanisms by which the gut microbial community influences host biology remain almost entirely unknown. Recent molecular-based investigations have confirmed the species diversity and metabolic complexity of gut microflora, although there is much work to be done to understand how they relate to each other as well as the host animal. It is almost a century ago that Eli Metchnikoff proposed the revolutionary idea to consume viable bacteria to promote health. Since that time, the area known as probiotics has made dramatic progress, particularly during the past 2 decades. The last 20 yr have also seen the emergence of a new, related area of study—prebiotics. Use of these 2 ideas—providing live nonpathogenic bacteria as well as substrates for their growth—have potential to help optimize the health of animals by manipulating the gastrointestinal tract in positive ways.

This article was published in J Appl Poult Res and referenced in Clinical Microbiology: Open Access

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