The large intestine is host to a complex ecological community composed predominantly of obligate anaerobic bacteria belonging to the classes Bacteroidia and Clostridia. This community confers benefits through its metabolic activities and host interactions. However, a microbial imbalance (dysbiosis) characterized by a decreased abundance of Clostridia and a bloom of facultative anaerobic Proteobacteria is commonly observed during inflammation in the large bowel. Here we review recent insights into the principles that favour simultaneous increases in the abundance of closely related species belonging to the Proteobacteria during inflammation, which provides important clues for the rational design of strategies to treat dysbiosis.