Humans are virtually identical in their genetic makeup, yet the small differences in our DNA give rise to tremendous phenotypic diversity across the human population. By contrast, the metagenome of the human microbiome-the total DNA content of microbes inhabiting our bodies-is quite a bit more variable, with only a third of its constituent genes found in a majority of healthy individuals. Understanding this variability in the "healthy microbiome" has thus been a major challenge in microbiome research, dating back at least to the 1960s, continuing through the Human Microbiome Project and beyond. Cataloguing the necessary and sufficient sets of microbiome features that support health, and the normal ranges of these features in healthy populations, is an essential first step to identifying and correcting microbial configurations that are implicated in disease. Toward this goal, several population-scale studies have documented the ranges and diversity of both taxonomic compositions and functional potentials normally observed in the microbiomes of healthy populations, along with possible driving factors such as geography, diet, and lifestyle. Here, we review several definitions of a 'healthy microbiome' that have emerged, the current understanding of the ranges of healthy microbial diversity, and gaps such as the characterization of molecular function and the development of ecological therapies to be addressed in the future.
Lloyd-Price, J., Abu-Ali, G., & Huttenhower, C. (2016, April 27). The healthy human microbiome. Genome Medicine. BioMed Central Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13073-016-0307-y