Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) are a group of chronic diseases of increasing worldwide prevalence characterized by gastrointestinal (GI) inflammation leading to debilitating symptoms and complications. The contribution of the intestinal microbiota to the pathogenesis and etiology of these diseases is an area of active research interest. Here, we discuss key mechanisms underlying the chronic inflammation seen in IBD as well as evidence implicating the intestinal microbiota in the development and potentiation of that inflammation. We also discuss recently published work in areas of interest within the field of microbial involvement in IBD pathogenesis – the importance of proper microecology within the GI tract, the evidence that the intestinal microbiota transduces environmental and genetic risk factors for IBD, and the mechanisms by which microbial products contribute to communication between microbe and host. There is an extensive body of published research on the evidence for microbial involvement in IBD; the goal of this review is to highlight the growing edges of the field where exciting and innovative research is pushing the boundaries of the conceptual framework of the role of the intestinal microbiota in IBD pathogenesis.

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