Recent advances that allow us to collect more data on DNA sequences and metabolites have increased our understanding of connections between the intestinal microbiota and metabolites at a whole-systems level. We can also now better study the effects of specific microbes on specific metabolites. Here, we review how the microbiota determines levels of specific metabolites, how the metabolite profile develops in infants, and prospects for assessing a person's physiological state based on their microbes and/or metabolites. Although data acquisition technologies have improved, the computational challenges in integrating data from multiple levels remain formidable; developments in this area will significantly improve our ability to interpret current and future data sets.
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