Objective: The purpose of this review article is to summarize what is currently known about microbes associated with the human body and to provide examples of how this knowledge impacts the care of surgical patients. Background: Pioneering research over the past decade has demonstrated that human beings live in close, constant contact with dynamic communities of microbial organisms. This new reality has wide-ranging implications for the care of surgical patients. METHODS AND Results: Recent advances in the culture-independent study of the human microbiome are reviewed. To illustrate the translational relevance of these studies to surgical disease, we discuss in detail what is known about the role of microbes in the pathogenesis of obesity, gastrointestinal malignancies, Crohn disease, and perioperative complications including surgical site infections and sepsis. The topics of mechanical bowel preparation and perioperative antibiotics are also discussed. Conclusions: Heightened understanding of the microbiome in coming years will likely offer opportunities to refine the prevention and treatment of a wide variety of surgical conditions.
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