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Shida & Nanno (2008) Probiotics and immunology: separating the wheat from the chaff

Shida & Nanno (2008) Probiotics and immunology: separating the wheat from the chaff


Shida K & Nanno M (2008) Probiotics and immunology: separating the wheat from the chaff. Trends in Immunology 29(11): 565-573.

Areas of discussion

This review discusses the evidence supporting the beneficial effects of probiotic bacteria and explains the possible immunomodulatory mechanisms of action behind this. It includes a clear diagram showing the hypothetical pathways of probiotic immune modulation in the intestine, and a detailed explanation of this activity covering:

  • The effect of probiotics on the intestinal epithelium cells in maintaining the integrity of the intestinal barrier.
  • Recognition of probiotics by immune cells.
  • Pattern receptors on phagocytic cells (Toll-like receptors, C-type leptin receptors, Nod-like receptors).
  • Regulation of cytokine production by probiotics.- E.g. IL-10, IL-12.
  • Regulation of T cell function by probiotics.

The areas of health benefit discussed include respiratory infections, enteric infections, inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease), and allergy.

The review also draws attention to the potential influences of genetic and environmental factors on probiotic effects, and the need to select the most suitable strain(s) when used to help with certain diseases.

Research relating to LcS

Research for the probiotic strain LcS was discussed in the following areas:

  • Delaying the occurrence of allergy in patients with hay fever
  • Increasing cytotoxic activity of natural killer (NK) cells
  • Stimulation of macrophages to increase production of TNF-a and IL-12
  • Promotion of Th1 cell differentiation through increased IL-12 production 


Probiotics may be useful in the maintenance of health through their interaction with the host’s immune system. Many effects of probiotic bacteria are strain specific, therefore their use needs to be evidence-based.

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