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This article is part of the Research Topic Human health and disease in a microbial world

Mini Review ARTICLE

Front. Microbiol., 11 July 2011 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2011.00153

Microbial eukaryotes in the human microbiome: ecology, evolution, and future directions

  • 1 Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 2 Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 3 Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA

High throughput sequencing technology has opened a window into the vast communities of bacteria that live on and in humans, demonstrating tremendous variability, and that they play a large role in health and disease. The eukaryotic component of the human gut microbiome remains relatively unexplored with these methods, but turning these tools toward microbial eukaryotes in the gut will likely yield myriad insights into disease as well as the ecological and evolutionary principles that govern the gut microbiota. Microbial eukaryotes are common inhabitants of the human gut worldwide and parasitic taxa are a major source of morbidity and mortality, especially in developing countries, though there are also taxa that cause no harm or are beneficial. While the role microbial eukaryotes play in healthy individuals is much less clear, there are likely many complex interactions between the bacterial, archaeal, and eukaryotic microbiota that influence human health. Integrating eukaryotic microbes into a broad view of microbiome function requires an integrated ecological approach rather than one focused on specific, disease-causing taxa. Moving forward, we expect broad surveys of the eukaryotic microbiota and associated bacteria from geographically and socioeconomically diverse populations to paint a more complete picture of the human gut microbiome in health and disease.

Keywords: intestinal protozoa, host-associated communities, eukaryotic diversity

Citation: Wegener Parfrey L, Walters WA and Knight R (2011) Microbial eukaryotes in the human microbiome: ecology, evolution, and future directions. Front. Microbio. 2:153. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2011.00153

Received: 02 April 2011; Paper pending published: 20 May 2011;
Accepted: 28 June 2011; Published online: 11 July 2011.

Edited by:

Peter J. Turnbaugh, Harvard University, USA

Reviewed by:

Alain Stintzi, Ottawa Institute of Systems Biology, Canada
Jacques Ravel, University of Maryland School of Medicine, USA

Copyright: © 2011 Parfrey, Walters and Knight. This is an open-access article subject to a non-exclusive license between the authors and Frontiers Media SA, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and other Frontiers conditions are complied with.

*Correspondence: Rob Knight, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Colorado, UCB 215, Boulder, CO 80309, USA. e-mail: rob.knight@colorado.edu