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Animals live in symbiosis with numerous microbe species. While some can protect hosts from infection and benefit host health, components of the microbiota or changes to the microbial landscape have the potential to facilitate infections and worsen disease severity. Pathogens and pathobionts can exploit microbiota metabolites, or can take advantage of a depletion in host defences and changing conditions within a host, to cause opportunistic infection. The microbiota might also favour a more virulent evolutionary trajectory for invading pathogens. In this review, we consider the ways in which a host microbiota contributes to infectious disease throughout the host’s life and potentially across evolutionary time. We further discuss the implications of these negative outcomes for microbiota manipulation and engineering in disease management.

Original publication




Journal article


PLOS Pathogens


Public Library of Science (PLoS)

Publication Date





e1009514 - e1009514