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J Int Med Res. 2004 Mar-Apr;32(2):97-108.

Probiotics, prebiotics and child health: where are we going?

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Department of Paediatrics, University of Milan, San Paolo Hospital, Milan, Italy.


Changes in gastrointestinal (GI) bacteria caused by diet, antibiotics or other factors could alter enteric and systemic immune functions; changing the gut microflora composition by diet supplementation with specific live microbiota (probiotics) may be beneficial. The 'natural' target of ingested probiotics is the intestine, its microflora and associated immune system. Most published data concern use of probiotics to prevent and treat GI infections. Evidence for possible beneficial effects on mucosal barrier dysfunctions, including food allergy, inflammatory bowel disease, and respiratory and urinary tract infections, is emerging. The role of prebiotics (non-digestible oligosaccharides that reduce the growth or virulence of pathogens and induce systemic effects) is being investigated. Preliminary studies indicate that prebiotics may be useful dietary adjuncts for managing GI infections. Prebiotic and probiotic use in infants is attempting to modify a complex microbial ecosystem. Better understanding of the long-term effects of these interventions on infant gut microflora is an important goal.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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