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Nutrients. 2013 May 29;5(6):1869-912. doi: 10.3390/nu5061869.

Probiotics, prebiotics and immunomodulation of gut mucosal defences: homeostasis and immunopathology.

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  • 1School of Biomedical & Biological Sciences, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK.


Probiotics are beneficial microbes that confer a realistic health benefit on the host, which in combination with prebiotics, (indigestible dietary fibre/carbohydrate), also confer a health benefit on the host via products resulting from anaerobic fermentation. There is a growing body of evidence documenting the immune-modulatory ability of probiotic bacteria, it is therefore reasonable to suggest that this is potentiated via a combination of prebiotics and probiotics as a symbiotic mix. The need for probiotic formulations has been appreciated for the health benefits in "topping up your good bacteria" or indeed in an attempt to normalise the dysbiotic microbiota associated with immunopathology. This review will focus on the immunomodulatory role of probiotics and prebiotics on the cells, molecules and immune responses in the gut mucosae, from epithelial barrier to priming of adaptive responses by antigen presenting cells: immune fate decision-tolerance or activation? Modulation of normal homeostatic mechanisms, coupled with findings from probiotic and prebiotic delivery in pathological studies, will highlight the role for these xenobiotics in dysbiosis associated with immunopathology in the context of inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal cancer and hypersensitivity.

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