Recent advances in parallel genomic processing and computational mapping have been applied to the native human microbial environment to provide a new understanding of the role of the microbiome in health and disease. In particular, studies of the distal gut microbiome have proposed that changes in gut microbiota are related to obesity, the metabolic syndrome, and Western diet. We examined the changes in the distal gut microbiome composition as it relates to the lean and obese phenotypes, particularly after surgical weight loss. A PubMed search of publications from January 1, 2005, through December 31, 2012, used the search terms weight, obesity, microbiome, and bariatric surgery. We included studies that provided information on subjects' weight and/or body mass index and a formal assessment of the microbiome. Certain bacteria, specifically the archaeon Methanobrevibacter smithii, have enhanced ability to metabolize dietary substrate, thereby increasing host energy intake and weight gain. With weight loss, there is a decrease in the ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes phyla. One major finding from microbial sequencing analyses after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass is the comparative overabundance of Proteobacteria in the distal gut microbiome, which is distinct from the changes seen in weight loss without Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. This review provides the practicing surgeon with (1) an update on the state of a rapidly innovating branch of clinical bioinformatics, specifically, the microbiome; (2) a new understanding of the microbiome changes after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass and weight loss; and (3) a basis for understanding further clinical applications of studies of the distal gut microbiome, such as in Crohn disease, ulcerative colitis, and infectious colitis.
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