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Prebiotics, probiotics, synbiotics, and the immune system: experimental data and clinical evidence

Frei, Remoa,b; Akdis, Mübeccela; O’Mahony, Liama

Current Opinion in Gastroenterology: March 2015 - Volume 31 - Issue 2 - p 153–158
doi: 10.1097/MOG.0000000000000151
NUTRITION: Edited by Eamonn M.M. Quigley

Purpose of review The intestinal immune system is constantly exposed to foreign antigens, which for the most part should be tolerated. Certain probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics are able to influence immune responses. In this review, we highlight the recent publications (within the last 2 years) that have substantially progressed this field.

Recent findings The immunological mechanisms underpinning probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics effects continue to be better defined with novel mechanisms being described for dendritic cells, epithelial cells, T regulatory cells, effector lymphocytes, natural killer T cells, and B cells. Many of the mechanisms being described are bacterial strain or metabolite specific, and should not be extrapolated to other probiotics or prebiotics. In addition, the timing of intervention seems to be important, with potentially the greatest effects being observed early in life.

Summary In this review, we discuss the recent findings relating to probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics, specifically their effects on immunological functions.

aSwiss Institute of Allergy and Asthma Research, University of Zurich

bChristine Kühne – Center for Allergy Research and Education (CK-CARE), Davos, Switzerland

Correspondence to Dr Liam O’Mahony, SIAF, Obere Strasse 22, 7270 Davos Platz, Switzerland. Tel: +41 81 4100853; fax: +41 81 4100840; e-mail:

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