Probiotics in respiratory virus infections

  • L. Lehtoranta
  • A. Pitkäranta
  • R. Korpela


Viral respiratory infections are the most common diseases in humans. A large range of etiologic agents challenge the development of efficient therapies. Research suggests that probiotics are able to decrease the risk or duration of respiratory infection symptoms. However, the antiviral mechanisms of probiotics are unclear. The purpose of this paper is to review the current knowledge on the effects of probiotics on respiratory virus infections and to provide insights on the possible antiviral mechanisms of probiotics. A PubMed and Scopus database search was performed up to January 2014 using appropriate search terms on probiotic and respiratory virus infections in cell models, in animal models, and in humans, and reviewed for their relevance. Altogether, thirty-three clinical trials were reviewed. The studies varied highly in study design, outcome measures, probiotics, dose, and matrices used. Twenty-eight trials reported that probiotics had beneficial effects in the outcome of respiratory tract infections (RTIs) and five showed no clear benefit. Only eight studies reported investigating viral etiology from the respiratory tract, and one of these reported a significant decrease in viral load. Based on experimental studies, probiotics may exert antiviral effects directly in probiotic–virus interaction or via stimulation of the immune system. Although probiotics seem to be beneficial in respiratory illnesses, the role of probiotics on specific viruses has not been investigated sufficiently. Due to the lack of confirmatory studies and varied data available, more randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled trials in different age populations investigating probiotic dose response, comparing probiotic strains/genera, and elucidating the antiviral effect mechanisms are necessary.


Lactobacillus Influenza Virus Lactis Respiratory Syncytial Virus Acute Otitis Medium 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Biomedicine, PharmacologyUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Institute of Clinical Medicine, OtorhinolaryngologyUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  3. 3.Department of Otorhinolaryngology—Head and Neck SurgeryHelsinki University Central HospitalHelsinkiFinland

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