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Year : 2014  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 11-22

Clinical significance of probiotics in human

Department of Biotechnology, Madhav Institute of Technology and Science, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, India

Date of Submission19-Jun-2012
Date of Acceptance07-Aug-2012
Date of Web Publication8-Jan-2014

Correspondence Address:
Hotam Singh Chaudhary
Department of Biotechnology, Madhav Institute of Technology and Science, Gwalior- 474 005, Madhya Pradesh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2231-0738.124610

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This review gives a glimpse of probiotic role in human life and how it affects the individual. Probiotics have been studied as an alternative to antibiotic therapy. The term "probiotics" comes from the Greek word "pro bios" meaning "for life" opposed to "antibiotics," which means "against life." As the research is progressing, new approaches to treat diseases are being developed such as prebiotics and synbiotics. Probiotics work in our body through various modes of action, namely, production of inhibitory substances, stimulation of immunity, affecting host gene expression, blocking of adhesion sites, competition for nutrients, and degradation of toxin receptors. The various criteria employed to select strains for probiotics are acid-bile stability, adhesion stability, antimicrobial activity, viability and stability during processing and storage. Research has proved the therapeutic effects of probiotics in diseases such as diarrhea, rotavirus diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, Helicobacter pylori infection, hepatic encephalopathy, celiac disease, and hyperoxaluria. Probiotics have prophylactic effects in diseases such as pouchitis and ulcerative colitis that come under inflammatory bowel disease, antibiotic-induced diarrhea, necrotizing enterocolitis, ventilator-associated pneumonia, dental decay, periodontal infection, halitosis, constipation, gastrointestinal infections, and colon cancer. Probiotics also help in xenobiotic metabolism, lactose intolerance, cholesterol reduction, sucrase-isomaltase deficiency, stress, and hypertension. Further research is needed to prove the efficacy of probiotics in case of radiation-induced diarrhea, HIV/AIDS diarrhea, Crohn's disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and allergy.

Keywords: Bifidobacterium , lactic acid bacteria, prebiotic, probiotic

How to cite this article:
Jain D, Chaudhary HS. Clinical significance of probiotics in human. Int J Nutr Pharmacol Neurol Dis 2014;4:11-22

How to cite this URL:
Jain D, Chaudhary HS. Clinical significance of probiotics in human. Int J Nutr Pharmacol Neurol Dis [serial online] 2014 [cited 2022 Dec 5];4:11-22. Available from:

   Introduction Top

Elie Metchnikoff was the first to postulate that lactic acid bacteria (LAB) had potential of providing health benefits and also promote longevity. [1] Numerous in vivo and in vitro studies have shown that our very own normal intestinal flora is capable of protecting us against pathogenic and opportunistic microorganisms. [2]

There is an apprehension that pharmaceutical industry will no longer be able to develop effective antibiotics at a rate sufficient to compete with the emergence of microbial resistance to old antibiotics. Thus interest increased toward feeding beneficial microorganisms to humans as an alternative to antibiotic therapy. Probiotics provide an attractive alternative treatment because antibiotics that further delay recolonization by normal colonic flora can be avoided. [3] Probiotics are defined as "live microorganisms, which confer a health benefit on the host when administered in adequate amounts." [4],[5] The term "probiotics," was introduced in 1965 by Lilly and Stillwell. [6] Yakult was the first commercially available probiotic drink, introduced in Japan in 1935. It was then followed by Activia, introduced in France in 1987. People started giving importance to probiotic foods after 2006 and the market of these products increased rapidly in the world, along with other fermented dairy products. Researchers also used other foods as vectors to introduce probiotics to humans. [7]

The groups that can be benefitted from the use of probiotics and prebiotics in their regular diet include the following:

  • Infants (eg., to prevent diarrhea, allergy)
  • Toddlers (eg., prevention of upper respiratory tract infections)
  • Teenaged girls (bone mass)
  • Pregnant women (atopic disease, bone mass)
  • Adults with acute symptoms (eg., with functional gastrointestinal symptoms)
  • Elderly (eg., to cope with decreasing immunity)
  • Athletes (eg., restoration of immune system)
  • Travelers (eg., to prevent diarrhea). [8]

Probiotics also have been used prophylactically and/or therapeutically in which the role of disruption of normal flora in the disease process is less clear.

   Prebiotics and Synbiotics Additional Approach to Probiotics Top

Prebiotics is an additional approach, which boosts up the effect of probiotics. Prebiotics are dietary substances (mostly consisting of nonstarchy polysaccharides and oligosaccharides) that nurture a selected group of microorganisms living in the gut. They favor the growth of beneficial bacteria over that of harmful ones. Often prebiotics are used as food ingredients in biscuits, cereals, chocolate, spreads, and dairy products. Commonly known prebiotics are oligofructose, inulin, galacto-oligosaccharides, lactulose, and breast milk oligosaccharides. A possible side effect of prebiotics intake is intestinal discomfort from gas production. [9],[10],[11]

On the other hand, synbiotics are appropriate combinations of prebiotics and probiotics. A symbiotic product exerts both a prebiotic and probiotic effect. [12]

Microorganisms involved in probiotics

Refer to [Table 1].
Table 1: Microorganisms involved in probiotics

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Modes of action

The probiotic bacteria fight against pathogenic bacteria through various ways. Some of which are explained below:

For schematic representation of the mode of action of probiotics in the intestines refer to [Figure 1]. [36]
Figure 1: Schematic representation of the mode of action of probiotics in the intestines.[36] The strategy is based on the ability of probiotic bacteria (B) to bind pathogens (C) in intestinal epithelial tissue (A). Antipathogenic action of probiotics consists in production of lactic acid (D), which decreases the pH, interacts with the toxins produced by pathogens (E), with the production of hydrogen peroxide (F) and synthesis of bacteriocine (G)[36]

Click here to view

Production of inhibitory substances

Probiotic bacteria produce variety of substances, including organic acids, hydrogen peroxide, and bacteriocins, which are inhibitory to both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. These compounds may reduce not only the number of viable cells but may also affect bacterial metabolism or toxin production. [3] Production of lactic acid lowers the pH, which inhibits the development of pathogenic bacteria. Secretion of hydrogen peroxide has an inhibitory effect on growth and development of  Escherichia More Details coli 0157: H7. [37] Supernatants derived from Lactobacillus rhamnosus Lcr35 cultures are an inhibitor on nine types of pathogenic bacteria: E. coli (ETEC), E. coli (EPEC), Klebsiella pneumoniae, Shigella flexneri,  Salmonella More Details typhimurium, Enterobacter cloacae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Enterococcus faecalis, and Clostridium difficile. [38]

Stimulation of immunity

Probiotics stimulates specific and nonspecific immunity and helps in protection against intestinal diseases. [23],[39],[40],[41],[42],[43],[44] Patients treated with peroral administration of Lactobacillus GG during acute rotavirus diarrhea associated with an enhanced immune response to rotavirus and facilitate the shortened course of diarrhea. [40] Various cytokines were secreted by the administration of L. casei Shirota, [45] L. rhamnosus HN001, and Bifidobacterium lactis HN019 (stimulates the secretion of IL-12), which enhanced the cytotoxicity of lymphocytes. [4]

Affecting host gene expression

Human genome arrays now provide a means to study the effect of the introduction of a probiotic organism on host gene expression. Such systems can document changes in differential gene expression. [46] For example, the turning on of mucin expression by Lactobacillus sp. [47] and by activating transcription factors involved in cytokine signaling directly, leading to NF-κB activation, and indirectly via cytokines, leading to signal transducer and activator of transcription activation. [48]

The studies showing that Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron induces angiogenesis and development of a healthy intestine further illustrates the importance of the host-commensal interaction. [49] Newborns fed with L. rhamnosus GG resulted in a reduced incidence of atopy. [50]

Although the primary focus has been on communication related to virulence and disease, there is evidence now emerging that probiotic Lactobacillus, such as Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14, produce signaling molecules that interfere with gene expression in other organisms. [8] One method of communication involves molecules called autoinducers that are secreted by organisms to regulate gene expression and control behavior on a community-wide scale. [51] A study showed that the determinants for pheromone binding and specificity are contained within the transmembrane domain of Lactobacillus plantarum. [52] In many lactic acid bacterial strains, bacteriocins function as quorum sensing molecules, in that they are produced, and are controlled in a cell-density dependent manner, using a secreted peptide-pheromone that can enable the organism to switch on bacteriocine production at times when competition for nutrients is likely to become more severe. [53]

Blocking of adhesion sites

Competitive inhibition for bacterial adhesion sites on intestinal epithelial surfaces is another mechanism of action for probiotics. [54],[55],[56] Consequently, some probiotic strains have been chosen for their ability to adhere to epithelial cells. [3]

Competition for nutrients

Probiotics may utilize nutrients otherwise consumed by pathogenic microorganisms. However, the evidence that this occurs in vivo is lacking. [3]

Degradation of toxin receptor

The postulated mechanism by which S. boulardii protects animals against C. difficile intestinal disease is through degradation of the toxin receptor on the intestinal mucosa. [57],[58],[59]

Selection criteria

The criteria used to select probiotics define the optimal quality control of probiotic strains in industrial practice. Important quality control properties that must be constantly controlled and optimized are the following: Adhesive properties; bile and acid stability; viability and survival throughout the manufacturing process; affects on carbohydrate, protein, and fat utilization; and especially, colonization properties and immunogenicity. Most of these properties are related to the physiologic properties of the strain, but long-term industrial processing and storage conditions may influence probiotic properties. Thus, in addition to technologic properties, functional properties should be considered in quality control measures. [60],[61],[62],[63],[64],[65],[66],[67]

Acid and bile stability

To survive passage through the oral cavity, stomach, and small intestine, probiotic strains must tolerate the lysozyme, the acidic and protease-rich conditions of the stomach, and survive and grow in the presence of bile acids. Simple in vitro tests can be used for selection of acid- and bile-tolerant strains to ensure the quality of probiotic cultures during manufacture and storage and throughout the shelf life of the product. In vivo validation of survival through the human stomach is difficult to obtain. [60],[68],[69]

Adhesion stability

Adhesion characterization is an important quality control method for assessing the surface structure of probiotic bacteria and related gut barrier effects. In several studies, adhesion was related to a shortening of duration of diarrhea, immunogenic effects, competitive exclusion, and other health effects. [44],[67],[70],[71] Adhesion of probiotic strains is variable. Adhesion in different in vitro models varies even within the same strain and differences between strains can be significant. [72],[73],[74] Adhesion of some common probiotic strains was studied by using a human colon carcinoma cell line (Caco-2) and human ileostomy glycoproteins as in vitro models for intestinal epithelium and mucus, respectively. [60],[74],[75],[76],[77],[78],[79]

Antimicrobial activity

Antimicrobial activity targets the enteric undesirables and pathogens. [80] Production of bacteriocins is highly affected by the factors of the species of microorganisms, ingredients and pH of medium, incubation temperature and time. Antimicrobial effects of lactic acid bacteria are formed by producing some substances such as organic acids, carbon dioxide, hydrogen peroxide, diacetyl, low molecular weight antimicrobial substances such as reuterin, and bacteriocins such as nisin A, cytolysin, plantarisin S, and acidophilucin A. [81],[82],[83]

Viability and properties during processing and storage

Definition of a probiotic includes viability as an important factor. [20],[84] It is important to take viability into account because many strains exert effects in the nonviable form as well. [85],[86] The viability of several strains in fermented milks is dependent on both the production method and the strain. It is possible that cultures producing organic acids, diacetyl, or other inhibitory compounds in the fermented milk may influence the survival of some probiotic cultures. The production method for fermented milk needs to be carefully evaluated to offer consumers the right amount of viable cultures to obtain the reported health effects. [60]

Clinical applications


Treatment of acute diarrhea: It has been confirmed that different probiotic strains, including L. reuteri ATCC 55730, L. rhamnosus GG, [87] L. casei DN-114 001, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae (boulardii) are useful in reducing the severity and duration of acute infectious diarrhea in children. The oral administration of probiotics shortens the duration of acute diarrheal illness in children by approximately 1 day. Several meta-analyses of controlled clinical trials have been published that show consistent results in systematic reviews, suggesting that probiotics are safe and effective. The evidence from studies on viral gastroenteritis is more convincing than the evidence on bacterial or parasitic infections. Mechanisms of action are strain specific: There is evidence for efficacy of some strains of lactobacilli (eg., Lactobacillus casei GG and Lactobacillus reuteri ATCC 55730) and Saccharomyces boulardii. The timing of administration is also of importance. [27]

Antibiotic-induced diarrhea

Diarrhea is the most common side effect of antimicrobial therapy, with about 20% of patients receiving an antibiotic developing this condition. [88] The yeast S. boulardii has been successfully used in the prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhea. [89],[90] Recent research has indicated that L. casei DN-114 001 is effective in hospitalized adult patients for preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea and C. difficile diarrhea. [27] In a prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 180 hospitalized patients receiving antibiotic therapy were treated concurrently with either placebo or S. boulardii. The overall incidence of diarrhea in these patients was 26%; 22% of the patients receiving placebo developed diarrhea compared with 9% of patients receiving S. boulardii, a statistically significant difference. [91]

Radiation-induced diarrhea

There is inadequate research evidence to be certain that VSL#3 (L. casei, L. plantarum, L. acidophilus, L. delbrueckii, Bifidobacterium longum, B. breve, B. infantis, and Streptococcus thermophilus) is effective in the treatment of radiation-induced diarrhea. [27]

Rotavirus diarrhea

Lactobacillus has demonstrated some promise as a treatment for rotavirus infection. [40],[92],[93] In a study 74 children (age 4-5 months) with diarrhea were treated with either Lactobacillus GG or placebo. Approximately 80% of the children with diarrhea were positive for rotavirus. The investigators demonstrated that the duration of diarrhea was significantly shortened (from 2.4 to 1.4 days) in patients receiving Lactobacillus GG. The effect was even more significant when only the rotavirus-positive patients were analyzed. [94]

HIV/AIDS diarrhea

Diarrhea is a very serious consequence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. The etiology of this diarrhea is frequently unknown and there are no effective treatment modalities. However, S. boulardii was used to treat 33 HIV patients with chronic diarrhea. [95],[96] In these double-blind studies, 56% of patients receiving S. boulardii had resolution of diarrhea compared with only 9% of patients receiving placebo.

Irritable bowel syndrome

In a systematic review of several randomized controlled trials, Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 was the only probiotic to provide significant improvement in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms. [97] L. reuteri may improve colicky symptoms within 1 week of treatment, as shown in a recent trial with 90 breastfed babies with infantile colic. In summary, there is literature suggesting that certain probiotics may improve the principal symptoms in persons with IBS. [27]

Ventilator-associated pneumonia

A meta-analysis of 12 randomized controlled trials found significant reductions in the rate of ventilator-associated pneumonia, intensive care unit (ICU) length of stay, and colonization of the respiratory tract with Pseudomonas aeruginosa but no significant reduction in ICU mortality, hospital mortality, or hospital length of stay. [98]

Helicobacter pylori infection

Lactobacillus has been shown to be antagonistic to H. pylori both in vitro and in a gnotobiotic murine model. [99],[100],[101] A recent meta-analysis of 14 randomized trials suggests that supplementation of anti-H. pylori antibiotic regimens with certain probiotics may be effective in increasing eradication rates and may be considered helpful for patients with eradication failure. [27]

Hepatic encephalopathy

Investigators have postulated that it may be possible to use probiotics to decrease intestinal urease activity. For example, patients treated with Lactobacillus acidophilus and neomycin show a greater decrease in fecal urease activity than in patients treated with neomycin alone. [102],[103],[104] The decreased fecal urease activities corresponded to lower serum ammonia levels and improvements in the clinical status of patients. [3]

Prebiotics such as lactulose are commonly used for the prevention and treatment of this complication of cirrhosis. Minimal hepatic encephalopathy was reversed in 50% of patients treated with a synbiotic preparation (four probiotic strains and four fermentable fibers, including inulin and resistant starch) for 30 days. [27]

Inflammatory bowel disease


There is good evidence for the usefulness of probiotics in preventing an initial attack of pouchitis (VSL#3), and in preventing further relapse of pouchitis after the induction of remission with antibiotics. Probiotics can be recommended to patients with pouchitis of mild activity, or as maintenance therapy for those in remission. [27] Investigators have also postulated that Lactobacillus GG may be an effective therapeutic agent for pouchitis because it does not demonstrate mucus-degrading properties. [105]

Ulcerative colitis

A study on a randomized, double-blind clinical trial with 120 ulcerative colitis (UC) patients reported that oral administration of E. coli strain Nissle 1917 as a maintenance treatment of remission showed no difference in relapse rates compared with patients on mesalazine. [29] From the results of this preliminary study, probiotic treatment appears to offer another option for maintenance therapy of UC. [3] These results were confirmed by another study. [30]

Crohn's disease

A study reported that in pediatric Crohn's disease (CD), consumption of Lactobacillus GG was associated with increased gut IgA levels, which could promote the gut immunological barrier. [23] VSL#3, a mixture of four Lactobacilli strains (L. plantarum, L. casei, L. acidophilus, and Lactobacillus delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus), three Bifidobacteria strains (Bifidobacterium infantis, Bifidobacterium breve, and Bifidobacterium longum), and one strain of Streptococcus salivarius ssp. thermophilus, has been examined in UC, CD, and pouchitis patients. A study demonstrated the efficacy of this probiotic mix in maintenance of remission in patients with chronic pouchitis. [106] Although the trials summarized above are promising, the current consensus is that a number of larger controlled trials are necessary before the use of probiotics as a routine medical treatment is warranted. [107]

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

The human and animal studies have revealed an affirmative effect of probiotics supplementation on markers of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). [108],[109],[110],[111],[112],[113] The general effect of probiotics in this regard seem to be related to reducing the impact of pathogenic bacteria on NAFLD development by exclusion or inhibition of invading bacteria, as well as by producing antimicrobial factors such as short-chain fatty acids (SCFA). [114] SCFA can also help by modifying the epithelial permeability. [115],[116],[117]

Necrotizing enterocolitis

Clinical trials have shown that probiotic supplementation reduces the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in preterm neonates of less than 33 weeks gestation. Several meta-analyses [118],[119],[120] have shown to reduce the relative risk of NEC and death when Bifidusbacterium spp. and L. acidophilus are used prophylactically in neonates with birth weight <1500 gm. Among neonates with birth weights <750 gm, there was an increase in the risk of sepsis with the use of probiotics. [121] In summary, there is strong support for the use of certain probiotic strains in preterm infants. [27]

Celiac disease

Research into the use of probiotics as an adjuvant strategy to the gluten-free diet is underway in order to improve the quality of life of celiac disease patients. The strain B. longum CECT 7347 has been demonstrated to ameliorate damage caused by celiac disease, in both in vitro and in vivo animal models. [122],[123],[124] Once the efficiency of the strain has been demonstrated, given its potential in vivo functionality, a complete safety assessment is also required. [125]

Dental decay

It should also be noted that most probiotics are in dairy forms containing high calcium, possibly reducing demineralization of teeth. Probiotics should adhere to dental tissues to establish a cariostatic effect and thus should be a part of the bio-film to fight the carcinogenic bacteria. [5] L. rhamnosus GG and L. casei have proved their potential to hamper growth of oral streptococci. [126]

Periodontal infection

Clinical studies where probiotic species have been investigated specifically from a periodontal disease perspective are sparse. [5] L. reuteri and Lactobacillus brevi are among the species able to affect gingivitis and periodontitis. [127] According to a study, high levels of Lactobacillus in microbiota caused an 82% and 65% inhibition in  Porphyromonas gingivalis Scientific Name Search prevotella intermediate growth, respectively. [128]


Regular use of probiotics can help to control halitosis. After taking Weissella cibaria, reduced levels of volatile sulfide components produced by Fusobacterium nucleatum. [129] The effect could be due to hydrogen peroxide production by W. cibaria, causing F. nucleatum inhibition. [5]


Zyactinase, a freeze-dried extract of Kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa), has been developed as a constipation relief product as well as for long-term gut health. Zyactinase contains a protease complex, fiber, pectin, and fructo-oligosaccharides. Clinical studies have proved that zyactinase stimulates increased bowel movements and relieves the symptoms of IBS. This was proposed to be partially due to the stimulation of the gut microflora. Zyactinase was found to significantly increase the growth of probiotic bacteria such as L. reuteri, L. acidophilus, Pediococcus acidilactici and Lactobacillus planetarium in comparison to isomalt. Zyactinase was also found to significantly inhibit the growth of E. coli and Salmonella typhimurium with almost significant inhibition of Staphylococcus aureus. However, zyactinase stimulated the growth of Listeria monocytogenes. [130]

Gastrointestinal infections

Campylobacter enteritis causes the most common gastrointestinal infection. Results suggest that the administration of B. breve plays an important role in restoring the normal intestinal flora and thus shortens the time needed to eradicate Campylobacter. Epidemiological result suggests that B. breve yoghurt may be useful for prophylaxis of infectious diarrhea rather than for therapeutic use. [131]


Normally, the intestinal tract is colonized with bacteria such as Oxalobacter formigenes, Lactobacillus species, and others. [132],[133] Intestinal oxalate-degrading bacteria are capable of degrading oxalate to CO and formate; the latter is further metabolized and excreted via feces. Thus, treatment with oxalate-degrading bacteria could be a new therapeutic option in patients with hyperoxaluria and calcium oxalate stone disease. A recombinant L. plantarum WCFS1 (L. plantarum) secreting heterologous oxalate decarboxylase (OxdC) was developed, which may provide possible therapeutic approach by degrading intestinal oxalate. The results showed secretion and functional expression of OxdC protein in L. plantarum driven by signal peptides Lp 0373 and Lp 3050. The recombinant strain showed up to 50% oxalate reduction in medium containing 10 mM oxalate. [134]


A study advanced the theory that the "internal environment" of the intestinal tract may affect cancer rates, especially colon, breast, and stomach. Transformations of foodstuffs, endogenously produced compounds, or microbial byproducts by the plethora of microbes present in the intestinal tract into harmful substances may lead to the progenesis of different types of cancer. [135]

Colon cancer

The SYNCAN study tested the effect of oligofructose plus two probiotic strains in patients at risk of developing colonic cancer. The results of the study suggest that a synbiotic preparation can decrease the expression of biomarkers for colorectal cancer. [27]

Probiotics have been reported for their inhibitory effect on the expression of COX-2, NF-κB, nitric oxide, and cytokine expression. [136] Overexpression of COX-2 in colonic cells gives colonocytes antiapoptotic potential and cell proliferation ability. The probiotics mixture, VSL#3 includes L. casei, L. plantarum, L. acidophilus, L. delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, which could inhibit colonocytes proliferation by inducing proapoptotic pathway by regulation of the concentration of COX-2 in colon. [137] Putaala et al. demonstrated that the probiotics are involved in the inhibition of colon carcinogenesis by the downregulation of COX-2. [138] In another study, Otte et al. showed that probiotics were able to regulate COX-2 gene expression significantly in comparison to heat inactivated probiotics. [136] L. casei shirota induces the NF-κB, STAT3, COX-2, PI3/Akt, and DNA binding activity. [139] Cell-free supernatants of B. lactis 420, L. acidophilus, and L. salivarius were able to modulate the gene expression involved in tight junction and regulate the expression of COX-2 and NF-κB, [138] thus suggesting that probiotics produced bioactive metabolites. Probiotics hence could be able to induce or modify the gene expression in the gastrointestinal tract. Several researches show that probiotics are able to produce natural ligands by their metabolic activity such as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). [140] CLA is the natural ligands for cell signaling components like PPARγ and has better therapeutic prospect than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) used in cancer.

Xenobiotic metabolism

Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus have low activities of xenobiotic metabolizing enzymes such as azoreductase, nitroreductase, nitrate reductase, and β-glucuronidase. But they have high levels of glucosidase activity, which may result in the generation of flavonoid aglycones in the gut with genotoxic and anticarcinogenic properties. The evidence suggests that increasing the numbers of lactic acid bacteria in the gut could modify, beneficially, the levels of xenobiotic metabolizing enzymes. [141]

Lactose intolerance

Lactase-positive strains of bacteria (eg, Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Streptococcus) are commonly added to pasteurized dairy products to increase digestibility of the lactose present in the dairy product. [142],[143],[144] There are two probable mechanisms by which the addition of these bacteria is beneficial, that is, the reduction of lactose in the dairy product through fermentation and the replication of the probiotic in the gastrointestinal tract, which releases lactase. [3]

Cholesterol reduction

Some studies have hypothesized a role for the lactic microflora in systemically reducing blood lipid values. [145] It has been suggested that some probiotics can degrade cholesterol in the gut as well as produce metabolites that interfere with its synthesis in the liver. However, this has not been equivocally proved, and there are contrasting data from human volunteer trials. [9]

Sucrase-isomaltase deficiency

A study used S. cerevisiae to treat eight children with sucrase-isomaltase deficiency. These investigators demonstrated that in children given sucrose followed by S. cerevisiae, there was an improvement in both their hydrogen breath test and gastrointestinal symptoms. The investigators postulated that S. cerevisiae was supplying the missing enzymes. [146]


Two clinical studies show that Lactobacillus Rosell-52 and Bifidobacterium Rosell-175 allow alleviating physiological and psychological signs of stress and anxiety, without displaying any adverse event. This effect is correlated with biomarker monitoring (urinary-free cortisol) and several animal studies showing behavioral and physiological impact of the probiotic foods. Altogether, these results bring further evidence that gut microflora play a role in stress, anxiety, and depression, perhaps via the enteric nervous system as well as centrally and indicate that probiotics could represent an innovative, effective, and natural solution to cope with stressful situations. [147]


One line of research has suggested that bioactive peptides resulting from the proteolytic action of probiotic bacteria on casein (milk protein) during milk fermentation may suppress the blood pressure of hypertensive individuals. [148] Preliminary studies with spontaneously hypertensive rats [149],[150] and one human clinical study provide the evidence. [151] Two tripeptides, valine-proline-proline and isoleucine-proline-proline, isolated from a dairy-based fermentation of milk by S. cerevisiae and Lactobacillus helveticus have been identified as the active components. These tripeptides function as angiotensin-I-converting enzyme inhibitors and reduce blood pressure. The Japanese company Calpis (Kanagawa, Japan) has developed a pasteurized product based on this technology, Ameal-S, which has functional food status in Japan. Unlike many other probiotic-induced effects, it is important to note that this effect is mediated by a fermentation end product, not viable probiotic cells themselves. [152]

Another antihypertensive activity was associated with cell wall fragments of L. casei YIT9018. [153] In a placebo-controlled trial with 28 human hypertensive subjects, powdered cell extracts (not viable cells) were administered orally and effects on systolic pressure, diastolic pressure, and heart rate were determined. Small, but significant decreases in all three were noted. An interesting characteristic of these activities is that neither requires viable cells, and they provide novel mechanisms for probiotic-mediated effects. Taken together, they suggest that probiotics bacteria may be effective in mediating an antihypertensive effect. [152]


Little is known about the efficacy of probiotics in preventing food allergy. [152] It has been suggested that gut flora modulation may downregulate gut inflammation and hypersensitivity that would otherwise lead to atopic eczema. [9] The strongest evidence is for the prevention of atopic dermatitis when certain probiotics are administered to pregnant mothers and newborns up to 6 months of age.

However, a recent clinical trial did not confirm these results. With regard to the treatment of allergic disease, a few well-designed studies have provided evidence that specific probiotic strains can be effective in the treatment of a subset of patients with atopic eczema. [27]


The safety of a probiotic depends on several factors:

  • Ability to transfer genetic material
  • Sensitivity to antibiotics
  • Ability to produce hazardous substances
  • Immune status of the host organism
  • Noninfectious nature

   Future Interventions Top

  • With the advanced techniques of molecular biology offers the possibility of genetic screening, which lead to identification of new probiotic strains having multiple beneficial effects in difficult environmental conditions. To create new strains of genetically modified probiotic is essential to know all their possible mechanisms of action. Although genetic modification (GM) of probiotic bacteria can bring significant improvements, formidable barriers were imposed which lead to restrictions for their use commercially [4]
  • Three strains of Propionibacterium freudenreichii previously selected in vitro for their tolerance to acid stress and their ability to produce propionic acid were administered for 20 days to rats colonized by a human microbiota. All three strains showed high survival rates in caecal and faecal contents (up to 3 × 10 8 CFUg/L) as well as transcriptional activity. One strain also increased concentrations of short-chain fatty acids in the caecum. Given these promising features, propioni bacteria must now give proof of their probiotic properties [154]
  • Food matrices as fruits and vegetables offer a promising performance as sources and carriers of probiotic strains
  • Several kinds of signaling molecules are released by the bacteria to interact with other bacteria and components of immunity. These signaling molecules could become a new generation of drugs designed to interfere with virulence and pathogenesis

   References Top

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3.Rolfe RD. The role of probiotic cultures in the control of gastrointestinal health. J Nutr 2000;130:2S Suppl:396S-402S.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Corcionivoschi N, Drinceanu D, Steff L, Luca I, Julean C, Mingyart O. Probiotics-identification and ways of action. Innovative Romanian Food Biotechnol 2010;6:1-11.  Back to cited text no. 4
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7.Paraschiv D, Vasile A, Constantin M, Ciobanu A, Bahrim G. Study of physiological properties of some probiotics in multiple cultures with mesophilic lactic acid bacteria by Flora Danica Ch. Hansen commercial starter. AUDJG - Food Technol 2011;35:56-65.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Sanders ME, Guarner F, Mills D, Pot B, Rafter J, Rastall B, et al. Selected topics in probiotics and prebiotics: Meeting report for the 2004 international scientific association for probiotics and prebiotics. Curr Issues Intest Microbiol 2005;6:55-68.  Back to cited text no. 8
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