Microbiome and microbiota
Although they are often used interchangeably, microbiome and microbiota are different terms. The microbiota identifies the population of commensal, symbiotic or pathogenic microorganisms that colonise specific areas in our bodies, for example, the skin, nose, intestinal tract, and vagina.
The human microbiota has an important role in providing a protective physical barrier, releasing antimicrobial substances against pathogens, stimulating the immune system, breaking down potential toxins, and synthesising certain micronutrients.
It is essential that this dynamic system adapts to external and internal stimuli to maintain a state of equilibrium to ensure the wellbeing of the organism. Imbalances in the microbiota can lead to the development and progression of infectious diseases, liver diseases, autoimmune diseases, gastrointestinal cancers, metabolic diseases, respiratory diseases, and mental or psychological conditions.
The microbiome refers to all the genetic heritage that characterises the microbiota and the genes that are expressed. A person’s microbiome is formed in childhood and is influenced by diet, medications, and environmental exposures. Differences in the microbiome may also determine a person’s susceptibility to conditions such as metabolic disorders, allergies, cancers, cardiovascular and neurological disorders, and their responses to medications.