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Anatomical Variation in Gut Microbiota Studies

Michel Karl*

The microbiota of the gut is the most complex of all anatomic sites in terms of total numbers of bacteria that interact closely with the mucosal immune system and contribute various functions to host physiology. Especially in the proximal large intestine a diverse microbiota ferments complex substrates such as dietary fiber and host mucins, but also metabolizes bile acids and phytoestrogens that reach the large intestine. It is now well established that microbiota composition differs between but over time also within individuals. However, a thorough understanding of the sources of variations in microbiota composition, which is an important requirement for large population based microbiota studies is lacking. Microbiota composition varies depending on what kind of sample is collected, most commonly stool samples, stool swabs or superficial rectal or intestinal biopsies, and the time of collection.

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