Our knowledge of the microbial communities that inhabit the human gut has grown exponentially over the last few years and there is a profusion of novel information flowing from basic science laboratories into the clinical scenarios. Gut Microbes function like an organ within the gastrointestinal tract, and Gastroenterologists are the health professionals who should bring the new knowledge into practice.
The human host provides a habitat and nutrition to a large and diverse ecosystem of microbial communities and they play key roles in digestion, metabolism and immune function and have a significant impact beyond the gastrointestinal tract. Changes in the diversity and function of those communities are associated with far reaching consequences on host health and have been linked with a number of disorders, including functional bowel disorders, inflammatory bowel diseases and other immune mediated diseases (coeliac disease, allergies), metabolic conditions (type 2 diabetes, NASH), and perhaps, behavioral disorders such as autism and depression. The emerging data on the microbiota and its interaction with the host may provide novel diagnostic and prognostic tests for clinician, and also lead to the development of new and effective therapeutic interventions (functional foods, probiotics, prebiotics, microbiota transplants) to relieve symptoms, as well as treat and prevent illness.
The World Gastroenterology Organisation (WGO) seeks to raise awareness of this novel organ and bring the latest fundamental and clinically relevant knowledge to the Gastroenterologist and, through the Gastroenterologist, to the lay public. The "Gut Microbes - Importance in Health and Disease" campaign for World Digestive Health Day 2014 seeks to undertake the challenge of translating science into practice by developing educational and training platforms and materials around the world through a concerted collaboration with WGO Member Societies. Such actions include a WGO Gut Microbes Manual, "Meeting in a Box" tools to share with Member Societies, an update of the Probiotics and Prebiotics WGO Guideline, sponsored meetings and more.
We look forward to a fruitful campaign throughout 2014 and beyond.
Professor Francisco Guarner, MD
Chair, WDHD 2014