Probiotics have been defined as a live microbial food ingredient that are beneficial to the health of the host (65,66). Most current probiotics are lactic acid bacteria, especially Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species (66). Among the proposed health-promoting effects of the probiotic strains are the enhancement of cell-mediated immune responses of the host by stimulating the pro-inflammatory cytokine, particularly IL-12 (67,68). The cell-mediated immune response, enhanced by the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-12, has been considered as one of the most important underlying mechanisms contributing to the self-defense of the host a against tumors and allergy (56). Therefore, probiotics strains with the ability to stimulate IL-12 secretion can exhibit apparent anti-tumor and antiallergic effects (69-71). Considering the fact that the reduced cell-mediated immune response is the main component of immunosensence of the elderly, such probiotics can be expected to benefit the elderly. After consumption of a probiotic B. lactis, increase in the proportion of the total CD + 4 and CD25 T lymphocytes and NK cells in the blood were observed (72,73). The ex vivo phagocytic and tumoricidal activity capacity of polymorphonuclear and mononuclear cells were increased by an average of 101 and 62%, respectively. These increases were significantly correlated with age, with volunteers older than 70 years experiencing significantly greater improvement than those younger than 70. In sight of the fact that the intestinal bifidobacteria are usually dominated by B. adolescentis with an advanced affinity specific to the mucus from the elderly and the ability to promote IL-12 production, B. adolescentis from the intestine of the healthy elderly may be a more reasonable candidate for use as probiotics to help the seniors to combat immunosenescence. Compared to other predominant species of bifidobacteria in infants and young adults, B. adolescentis is usually less quantitatively. Therefore, a strategy to increase senior-specific bifidobacteria, including B. adolescentis in the elderly could be a more practical way to improve the immunomodulatory effect of the intestinal flora. For more information on probiotics, see the chapter by Ouwehand and Khedkar.
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