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Does the microbiota play a role in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases?
  1. Mairi H McLean1,
  2. Dario Dieguez Jr2,
  3. Lindsey M Miller2,
  4. Howard A Young1
  1. 1Laboratory of Molecular Immunoregulation, Cancer & Inflammation Program, National Cancer Institute, Frederick, Maryland, USA
  2. 2Society for Women's Health Research, Scientific Affairs, Washington, DC, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Mairi H McLean, Laboratory of Molecular Immunoregulation, National Cancer Institute, Bldg 560, 1050 Boyles Street, Frederick, MD 21702-1201, USA; mairi.mclean{at}


The microbiota of the human metaorganism is not a mere bystander. These microbes have coevolved with us and are pivotal to normal development and homoeostasis. Dysbiosis of the GI microbiota is associated with many disease susceptibilities, including obesity, malignancy, liver disease and GI pathology such as IBD. It is clear that there is direct and indirect crosstalk between this microbial community and host immune response. However, the precise mechanism of this microbial influence in disease pathogenesis remains elusive and is now a major research focus. There is emerging literature on the role of the microbiota in the pathogenesis of autoimmune disease, with clear and increasing evidence that changes in the microbiota are associated with some of these diseases. Examples include type 1 diabetes, coeliac disease and rheumatoid arthritis, and these contribute significantly to global morbidity and mortality. Understanding the role of the microbiota in autoimmune diseases may offer novel insight into factors that initiate and drive disease progression, stratify patient risk for complications and ultimately deliver new therapeutic strategies. This review summarises the current status on the role of the microbiota in autoimmune diseases.


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