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Clin Nutr. 2018 Apr;37(2):443-451. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2017.01.011. Epub 2017 Jan 28.

Impact of ageing and a synbiotic on the immune response to seasonal influenza vaccination; a randomised controlled trial.

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Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AP, United Kingdom.
Department of Food Quality and Nutrition, Research and Innovation Centre, Fondazione Edmund Mach, via E. Mach, 1, San Michele all'Adige, Trento, 38010, Italy.
Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AP, United Kingdom.
Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AP, United Kingdom. Electronic address:



Ageing increases risk of respiratory infections and impairs the response to influenza vaccination. Pre- and pro-biotics offer an opportunity to modulate anti-viral defenses and the response to vaccination via alteration of the gut microbiota. This study investigated the effect of a novel probiotic, Bifidobacterium longum bv. infantis CCUG 52486, combined with a prebiotic, gluco-oligosaccharide, on the B and T cell response to seasonal influenza vaccination in young and older subjects .


In a double-blind, randomized controlled trial, 58 young (18-35 y) and 54 older (60-85 y) subjects were supplemented with the synbiotic for 8 weeks. At 4 weeks they were administered with a seasonal influenza vaccine. B and T cell phenotype and responsiveness to in vitro re-stimulation with the vaccine were assessed at baseline, 4, 6 and 8 weeks.


B and T cell profiles differed markedly between young and older subjects. Vaccination increased numbers of memory, IgA+ memory, IgG+ memory and total IgG+ B cells in young subjects, but failed to do so in older subjects and did not significantly alter T cell subsets. Seroconversion to the H1N1 subunit in the older subjects was associated with higher post-vaccination numbers of plasma B cells, but seroconversion was less consistently associated with T cell phenotype. B and T cell subsets from both young and older subjects demonstrated a strong antigen-specific recall challenge, and although not influenced by age, responsiveness to the recall challenge was associated with seroconversion. In older subjects, CMV seropositivity was associated with a significantly lower recall response to the vaccine, but the synbiotic did not affect the responsiveness of B or T cells to re-stimulation with influenza vaccine.


Antigen-specific B and T cell activation following an in vitro recall challenge with the influenza vaccine was influenced by CMV seropositivity, but not by a synbiotic. Registered under Identifier no. NCT01066377.


Ageing; Influenza; Lymphocyte; Probiotic; Vaccination

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