Humans consider themselves discrete autonomous organisms, but recent research is rapidly strengthening the appreciation that associated microorganisms make essential contributions to human health and well being. Each person is inhabited and also surrounded by his/her own signature microbial cloud. A low diversity of microorganisms is associated with a plethora of diseases, including allergy, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases, and even neuropsychiatric disorders. Thus, an interaction of microorganisms with the host immune system is required for a healthy body. Exposure to microorganisms from the moment we are born and appropriate microbiome assembly during childhood are essential for establishing an active immune system necessary to prevent disease later in life. Exposure to microorganisms educates the immune system, induces adaptive immunity, and initiates memory B and T cells that are essential to combat various pathogens. The correct microbial-based education of immune cells may be critical in preventing the development of autoimmune diseases and cancer. This review provides a broad overview of the importance of the host microbiome and accumulating knowledge of how it regulates and maintains a healthy human system. Cancer Res; 1–30. ©2017 AACR.
- Received October 26, 2016.
- Revision received December 19, 2016.
- Accepted December 21, 2016.
- ©2017 American Association for Cancer Research.