Chapter

Bioactive Components of Milk

Volume 606 of the series Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology pp 423-454

Probiotics, Immunomodulation, and Health Benefits

  • Harsharn GillAffiliated withDepartment of Primary Industries
  • , Jaya PrasadAffiliated withSchool of Molecular Sciences, Victoria University

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Abstract

Probiotics are defined as live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amount, confer a health benefit on the host. Amongst the many benefits associated with the consumption of probiotics, modulation of the immune system has received the most attention. Several animal and human studies have provided unequivocal evidence that specific strains of probiotics are able to stimulate as well as regulate several aspects of natural and acquired immune responses. There is also evidence that intake of probiotics is effective in the prevention and/or management of acute gastroenteritis and rotavirus diarrhoea, antibiotic-associated diarrhoea and intestinal inflammatory disorders such as Crohn’s disease and pouchitis, and paediatric atopic disorders. The efficacy of probiotics against bacterial infections and immunological disorders such as adult asthma, cancers, diabetes, and arthritis in humans remains to be proven. Also, major gaps exist in our knowledge about the mechanisms by which probiotics modulate immune function. Optimum dose, frequency and duration of treatment required for different conditions in different population groups also remains to be determined. Different probiotic strains vary in their ability to modulate the immune system and therefore efficacy of each strain needs to be carefully demonstrated through rigorously designed (randomised, doubleblind, placebo-controlled) studies. This chapter provides an over view of the immunomodulatory effects of probiotics in health and disease, and discusses possible mechanisms through which probiotics mediate their disparate effects.