The human microbiota includes the trillions of microorganisms living in the human body whereas the human microbiome includes the genes and gene products of this microbiota. Bacteria were historically largely considered to be pathogens that inevitably led to human disease. However, because of advances in both cultivation-based methods and the advent of metagenomics, bacteria are now recognized to be largely beneficial commensal organisms and thus, key to normal and healthy human development. This relatively new area of medical research has elucidated insights into diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and obesity, as well as metabolic and atopic disorders. However, much remains unknown about the complexity of microbe-microbe and microbe-host interactions. Future efforts aimed at answering key questions pertaining to the early establishment of the microbiome, alongside what defines its dysbiosis, will likely lead to long-term health and mitigation of disease. Here, we review the relevant literature pertaining to modulations in the perinatal and neonatal microbiome, the impact of environmental and maternal factors in shaping the neonatal microbiome, and future questions and directions in the exciting emerging arena of metagenomic medicine.

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