The human gastrointestinal tract houses trillions of microbes. The gut and various types of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and archaea, form a complex ecosystem known as the gut microbiota, and the whole genome of the gut microbiota is referred to as the gut microbiome. The gut microbiota is essential for homeostasis and the overall well-being of a person and is in-creasingly considered an adjunct “virtual organ,” with a complexity level comparable to that of the other organ systems. The gut micro-biota plays an essential role in nutrition, local mucosal homeostasis, inflammation, and the mucosal immune system. An imbalanced state of the gut microbiota, known as dysbiosis, can predispose to development of various gastrointestinal malignancies through three speculated pathogenic mechanisms: (a) direct cytotoxic effects with damage to the host DNA, (b) disproportionate proinflammatory signaling inducing inflammation, and (c) activation of tumorigenic pathways or suppression of tumor-suppressing pathways. Several microorganisms, including Helicobacter pylori, Epstein-Barr virus, human papillomavirus, Mycoplasma species, Escherichia coli, and Streptococcus bovis, are associated with gastrointestinal malignancies such as esophageal adenocarcinoma, gastric adenocarcinoma, gastric mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue lymphoma, colorectal ad-enocarcinoma, and anal squamous cell carcinoma. Imaging plays a pivotal role in diagnosis and management of microbiota-associated gastrointestinal malignancies. Appropriate use of probiotics, fecal microbiota transplantation, and overall promotion of the healthy gut are ongoing areas of research for prevention and treatment of malignancies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging