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Probiotics, Immune Function, Infection and Inflammation: A Review of the Evidence from Studies Conducted in Humans

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A number of studies have been performed examining the influence of various probiotic organisms, either alone or in combination, on immune parameters, infectious outcomes, and inflammatory conditions in humans. Some components of the immune response, including phagocytosis, natural killer cell activity and mucosal immunoglobulin A production (especially in children), can be improved by some probiotic bacteria. Other components, including lymphocyte proliferation, the production of cytokines and of antibodies other than immunoglobulin A appear less sensitive to probiotics. Probiotics, including lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, administered to children can reduce incidence and duration of diarrhoea, but the precise effects depend upon the nature of the condition. Probiotic supplementation can reduce the risk of travellers' diarrhoea in adults, but does not affect duration. The effect of probiotics on other infectious outcomes is less clear. Probiotics may benefit children and adults with irritable bowel syndrome and adults with ulcerative colitis; studies in Crohn's Disease are less clear. Probiotics have little effect in rheumatoid arthritis. Probiotic supplementation, especially with lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, can reduce risk and severity of allergic disease, particular atopic dermatitis; early supplementation appears to be effective. Overall, the picture that emerges from studies of probiotics on immune, infectious and inflammatory outcomes in humans is mixed and there appear to be large species and strain differences in effects seen. Other reasons for differences in effects seen will include dose of probiotic organism used, duration of supplementation, characteristics of the subjects studied, sample size, and technical differences in how the measurements were made.
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Keywords: Lymphocyte; NK cell; antibody; cytokine; macrophage

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Institute of Human Nutrition, School of Medicine, University of Southampton, Tremona Road, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK.

Publication date: May 1, 2009

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  • Current Pharmaceutical Design publishes timely in-depth reviews covering all aspects of current research in rational drug design. Each issue is devoted to a single major therapeutic area. A Guest Editor who is an acknowledged authority in a therapeutic field has solicits for each issue comprehensive and timely reviews from leading researchers in the pharmaceutical industry and academia.

    Each thematic issue of Current Pharmaceutical Design covers all subject areas of major importance to modern drug design, including: medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, drug targets and disease mechanism.
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