The importance of studying the gut microbiota is summed up nicely in the beginning of the author summary:
"Our microbial partners provide us with certain features that we have not had to evolve on our own. In this sense, we should consider ourselves to be a supraorganism whose genetic landscape includes both our own genome as well as the genomes of our resident microbes, and whose physiologic features are a synthesis of human and microbial metabolic traits."
I would have worded the first sentence differently as saying 'have not had to" sounds a bit too teleological to me.
I am also troubled by their use (later in the introduction) of the term "top-down selection" in reference to host driven selective forces that they argue are responsible for maintaining a high degree of functional redundancy in the gut community. I am not aware that the term top-down selection, as used by the broader ecology community, is considered a force for the maintenance of ecosystem stability.
The end of the paper lists a set open questions that it would be very nice to have answers to:
"Do we share an identifiable core “microbiome”? If there is such a core, how does the shell of diversity that surrounds the core influence our individual physiologic properties? How is the human microbiome evolving (within and between individuals) over varying time scales as a function of our changing diets, lifestyle, and biosphere? Finally, how should we define members of the microbiome when microbes possess pan-genomes (all genes present in any of the strains of a species) with varying degrees of “openness” to acquisition of genes from other microbes?"