New insights gained through the use of state-of-the-art technologies, including next-generation sequencing, are starting to reveal that the association between the gastrointestinal tract and the resident mycobiota (fungal community) is complex and multifaceted, in which fungi are active participants influencing health and disease.
Characterizing the human mycobiome (the fungi and their genome) in healthy individuals showed that the gastrointestinal tract contains 66 fungal genera and 184 fungal species, with Candida as the dominant fungal genera.
Although fungi have been associated with a number of gastrointestinal diseases, characterization of the mycobiome has mainly been focused on patients with IBD and graft-versus-host disease.
In this Review, we summarize the findings from studies investigating the relationship between the gut mycobiota and gastrointestinal diseases, which indicate that fungi contribute to the aggravation of the inflammatory response, leading to increased disease severity. A model explaining the mechanisms underlying the role of the mycobiota in gastrointestinal diseases is also presented.
Our understanding of the contribution of the mycobiota to health and disease is still in its infancy and leaves a number of questions to be addressed. Answering these questions might lead to novel approaches to prevent and/or manage acute as well as chronic gastrointestinal disease.