Probiotics: From the Ancient Wisdom to the Actual Therapeutical and Nutraceutical Perspective

  • Giuseppe CaramiaEmail author
  • Stefania Silvi


The history of probiotics began the first years of the 1900, when Elias Metchnikoff, Nobel Prize in Medicine, observed that not all microorganisms are harmful to human health and that some intestinal bacteria produce useful compounds against aging. Actually the history of fermented milk and yogurt has born with humans, these foods were used for centuries by prehistoric people and later by Phoenicians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and at the Royal Court of Francis I of France (1494–1547). They were the staple foods of some very long-living populations of shepherds in the Caucasus and Bulgaria, and were also used by other populations of the Ottoman Empire as heal-all to purify the blood, to avoid tuberculosis, to recover intestinal problems and even to promote sleep. During the past years the definition of probiotics changed gaining more defined concept up to the latest given by FAO/WHO: “Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amount confer a health benefit on the host”. In the last few decades probiotics kept the primary indication: the preventive-therapeutic use, particularly for some gastroenterological diseases, to try to restore and/or rebalancing the functionality of microbiota, the intestinal mucosa and the immunological aspects. Well-studied probiotic applications are: acute infectious-, antibiotic associated-, Clostridium difficile associated- and traveller’s diarrheas, infection caused by Helicobacter pylori, necrotizing enterocolitis, bacterial vaginosis, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, atopic dermatitis, dental caries. Advances have been made from the traditional use to the modern applications in medical and in industrial field, designing novel synbiotic formulations both in therapeutic field and in functional foods sector.


Probiotics Prebiotics Synbiotics Functional foods Intestinal microbiota 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hemeritus Head Physician of Paediatrics and NeonatologySpecialized Maternal-Infantil Hospital “G.Salesi”AnconaItaly

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