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The human body carries vast communities of microbes that provide many benefits. Our microbiome is complex and challenging to understand, but evolutionary theory provides a universal framework with which to analyse its biology and health impacts. Here we argue that to understand a given microbiome feature, such as colonization resistance, host nutrition or immune development, we must consider how hosts and symbionts evolve. Symbionts commonly evolve to compete within the host ecosystem, while hosts evolve to keep the ecosystem on a leash. We suggest that the health benefits of the microbiome should be understood, and studied, as an interplay between microbial competition and host control.

Original publication

DOI

10.1038/nature23292

Type

Journal article

Journal

Nature

Publication Date

02/08/2017

Volume

548

Pages

43 - 51

Keywords

Animals, Biodiversity, Biological Evolution, Ecosystem, Health, Humans, Microbial Interactions, Microbiota, Models, Biological, Species Specificity, Symbiosis