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Homeostasis between the intestinal microbiota and the host ensures vital functions of the organism, such as efficient energy and metabolite extraction from food, xenobiotic metabolism, defence against pathogenic microbes and maintenance of a robust epithelial barrier. Disruption of this homeostasis can lead to an array of severe illnesses with a major impact on public health. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is only one example of many diseases that involve the symbiotic microbiota. For these reasons, mapping and understanding the interactions between the microbiota and the host is the basis of numerous large projects in Europe and beyond. Essential tools for this type of research are germfree (GF) and gnotoxenic (GX) animals.

 

Several research centres have developed independent resources to generate GF and GX animal models in order to decipher the role of particular symbiotic microbial species during homeostasis or pathology. Ten European centres have expressed an interest to coordinate their efforts in Gnotobiology in order to improve exchange of expertise and resources, regarding in particular:

-          the co-ordinated production and distribution of GF and GX animals,

-          the validation of GF and GX status

-          the development of technology (i.e. housing equipment),

-          the improvement and harmonization of shipping vehicles.

The overall objective is to further develop European expertise in Gnotobiology by harmonising common practice in developing and maintaining unique animal models of direct relevance to human health and disease.