Large Intestine (B Cash, Section Editor)

Current Gastroenterology Reports

, Volume 14, Issue 5, pp 446-452

First online:

The Colonic Microbiota and Colonic Disease

  • Fergus ShanahanAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine and Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre, University College Cork, National University of Ireland Email author 

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The colonic ecosystem differs from that in the proximal gut in several important respects. The colonic microbiota represents the largest population of microbes colonizing humans from birth. Constraints on bacterial numbers, composition, and interaction with the host involve not only the innate and acquired immune system, but also the colonic mucin structure. While the microbiota provides beneficial protective, trophic, nutritional, and metabolic signals for the host, it may become a risk factor for disease depending on context and host susceptibility. Technological advances including DNA-based high-throughput compositional analysis have linked changes in the indigenous microbiota with several human diseases. In some instances, these findings have the potential to serve as new biomarkers of risk of disease. In this overview, recent advances are focused upon in relation to irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and colon cancer. The possibility that the therapeutic solution to some of these disorders may reside within the microbiota will also be addressed.


Inflammatory bowel disease Irritable bowel syndrome Colon cancer Clostridium difficile