Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Human gut microbiome: hopes, threats and promises
  1. Patrice D Cani
  1. Metabolism and Nutrition Research Group, Université catholique de Louvain, WELBIO—Walloon Excellence in Life Sciences and BIOtechnology, Louvain Drug Research Institute, Brussels, Belgium
  1. Correspondence to Professor Patrice D Cani, Metabolism and Nutrition Research Group, Université catholique de Louvain, WELBIO—Walloon Excellence in Life Sciences and BIOtechnology, Louvain Drug Research Institute, Brussels 1200, Belgium; patrice.cani{at}


The microbiome has received increasing attention over the last 15 years. Although gut microbes have been explored for several decades, investigations of the role of microorganisms that reside in the human gut has attracted much attention beyond classical infectious diseases. For example, numerous studies have reported changes in the gut microbiota during not only obesity, diabetes, and liver diseases but also cancer and even neurodegenerative diseases. The human gut microbiota is viewed as a potential source of novel therapeutics. Between 2013 and 2017, the number of publications focusing on the gut microbiota was, remarkably, 12 900, which represents four-fifths of the total number of publications over the last 40 years that investigated this topic. This review discusses recent evidence of the impact of the gut microbiota on metabolic disorders and focus on selected key mechanisms. This review also aims to provide a critical analysis of the current knowledge in this field, identify putative key issues or problems and discuss misinterpretations. The abundance of metagenomic data generated on comparing diseased and healthy subjects can lead to the erroneous claim that a bacterium is causally linked with the protection or the onset of a disease. In fact, environmental factors such as dietary habits, drug treatments, intestinal motility and stool frequency and consistency are all factors that influence the composition of the microbiota and should be considered. The cases of the bacteria Prevotella copri and Akkermansia muciniphila will be discussed as key examples.

  • obesity
  • diabetes mellitus
  • intestinal microbiology

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Contributors PDC wrote the review.

  • Funding PDC is a recipient of grants from FNRS, FRFS-WELBIO, under grant WELBIO-CR-2017-C02. This research was supported by the FRS-FNRS under The Excellence Of Science (EOS 30770923). This work is supported in part by the Funds Baillet Latour (Grant for Medical Research 2015). PDC is a recipient of the POC ERC grant 2016 (European Research Council, Microbes4U_713547) and ERC Starting Grant 2013 (Starting grant 336452-ENIGMO).

  • Competing interests PDC is inventor on patent applications dealing with the use of A. muciniphila and its components in the treatment of obesity and related disorders. PDC is co-founder of A-Mansia biotech SA.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.