Probiotics: on-going research
on atopic individuals

Laiho K, Hoppu U, Ouwehand AC,
Salminen S, Isolauri E.
Department of Paediatrics,
University of Turku, 20520, Finland.
Br J Nutr. 2002 Sep;88 Suppl 1:S19-27.


The challenge for the modern health care system is to fight against the increasing prevalence of atopic disease. The introduction of scientifically composed probiotic functional foods for prophylactic or therapeutic purposes could be one solution. Probiotics are live microbial food supplements or components of bacteria which have beneficial effects on human health. Specific strains have been demonstrated to exert powerful anti-pathogenic, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic effects. The hygiene hypothesis suggests that atopic disease may arise from a lack of counterbalancing microbial exposure at an early age. The initial compositional development of the gut microflora is considered a key determinant of the development of both the immune responder phenotype and normal gut barrier functions. The regulatory role of probiotics in human allergic disease was first emphasised in the demonstration of a suppressive effect on lymphocyte proliferation and interleukin-4 generation in vitro. Subsequently, a significant improvement in the clinical course of atopic eczema was reported in infants given a probiotic-supplemented diet. The potential of probiotics to reduce the risk of atopic disease has recently been demonstrated in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study: probiotics administered pre- and postnatally for 6 months to at-risk subjects reduced the prevalence of atopic eczema to half of that observed in infants receiving placebo. Ongoing research is directed towards the development of novel techniques to characterise the gut microflora. Future research will clarify the mechanisms to control specific physiological processes in the evolution of atopic disease in at-risk populations or in the management of allergic diseases.
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