Gut microbiota and central nervous system development

Nicola Principi, Susanna Esposito

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Objectives Gut dysbiosis has been associated with several clinically relevant conditions, including alterations of central nervous system (CNS) structure and function development. This review discussed aspects of the relationship between gut microbiota and the CNS during development. Methods PubMed was used to search for all of the studies published over the last 15 years using the key word “microbiota” and “gut” or “intestinal” and “nervous system”. More than 350 articles were found, and only those published in English and providing data on aspects related to neurologic diseases were included in the evaluation. Results The data indicate that the gut microbiota influences CNS development and function and that gut dysbiosis is associated with significant neurological problems. However, most of these data have been collected in experimental animals and cannot be transferred to humans. Moreover, it is not definitively established whether neurologic diseases depend on a generic modification of the gut microbiota or whether a single bacterial phylum or species plays a specific role for any single condition. Furthermore, limited information exists regarding protective bacteria. Conclusions Both probiotics and prebiotics can have different impacts on CNS according to the microbial species or oligosaccharides that are administered. In humans, particularly in children, several factors may be important in conditioning gut microbiota modifications; unfortunately, most of these factors act simultaneously. More efforts are required to fully define both the array of complex behaviors that are influenced by the gut microbiota at the CNS level and the mechanisms involved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)536-546
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Infection
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Central nervous system
  • Gut microbiota
  • Prebiotics
  • Probiotics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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