The intestinal microbiota can protect efficiently against colonization by many enteric pathogens ('colonization resistance', CR). This phenomenon has been known for decades, but the mechanistic basis of CR is incompletely defined. At least three mechanisms seem to contribute, that is direct inhibition of pathogen growth by microbiota-derived substances, nutrient depletion by microbiota growth and microbiota-induced stimulation of innate and adaptive immune responses. In spite of CR, intestinal infections are well known to occur. In these cases, the multi-faceted interactions between the microbiota, the host and the pathogen are shifted in favor of the pathogen. We are discussing recent progress in deciphering the underlying molecular mechanisms in health and disease. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.
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