Trillions of microorganisms transit through and reside in the mammalian gastrointestinal tract each day, collectively producing thousands of small molecules and metabolites with local and systemic effects on host physiology. Identifying effector microorganisms that causally affect host phenotype and deciphering the underlying mechanisms have become foci of microbiome research and have begun to enable the development of microbiota-based therapeutics. Two complementary, reductionist approaches have commonly been used: the first starts with an immune phenotype and narrows down the microbiota to identify responsible effector bacteria, while the second starts with bacteria-derived molecules and metabolites and seeks to understand their effects on the host immune system. Together, these strategies provide the basis for the rational design of microbial and metabolite-based therapeutics that target and ameliorate immune deficits in patients.
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