Enhanced Immune Response

Immune system modulation and the prevention of gastrointestinal tract colonisation by a variety of pathogens are perhaps the most important actions of probiotics.

Probiotics bind to intestinal epithelial cells and inhibit the binding of pathogenic bacteria to the gut wall by production of inhibitory substances such as bacteriocins, lactic acid and toxic oxygen metabolites. Of the toxic oxygen metabolites, hydrogen peroxide is of major importance as it exerts a bactericidal effect on many pathogens (Kaur et al 2002). The ability to produce bacteriocins, hydrogen peroxide and other antimicrobial compounds is strain-dependent and requires the presence of folic acid and riboflavin in the case of lactobacilli. Binding to the gut wall also initiates signalling events that result in the synthesis of cytokines (Vanderhoof & Young 2003) Studies in germ-free mice have proven that intestinal bacteria are essential for a healthy systemic immune system (Falk et al 1998).

Lactobacillus GG has been well studied in this regard and shown to modulate intestinal immunity by increasing the number of IgA and other immunoglobulin-secreting cells in the intestinal mucosal and stimulates the local release of IFNs. Helicobacter pylori infection Several in vitro studies have shown that certain probiotics inhibit or kill H. pylori, prevent its adhesion to mammalian epithelial cells and prevent IL-8 release. In vivo models demonstrate that pretreatment with a probiotic can prevent H. pylori infections and/or that administration of probiotics markedly reduces an existing infection. Clinical efficacy has also been established for the use of probiotics as prevention or treatment, according to a review of six clinical studies (Hamilton-Miller 2003).

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