The development of gut immune responses and gut microbiota: effects of probiotics in prevention and treatment of allergic disease

Curr Issues Intest Microbiol. 2002 Mar;3(1):15-22.


The infant's immature intestinal immune system develops as it comes into contact with dietary and microbial antigens in the gut. The evolving indigenous intestinal microbiota have a significant impact on the developing immune system and there is accumulating evidence indicating that an intimate interaction between gut microbiota and host defence mechanisms is mandatory for the development and maintenance of a balance between tolerance to innocuous antigens and capability of mounting an inflammatory response towards potential pathogens. Disturbances in the mucosal immune system are reflected in the composition of the gut microbiota and vice versa. Distinctive alterations in the composition of the gut microbiota appear to precede the manifestation of atopic disease, which suggests a role for the interaction between the intestinal immune system and specific strains of the microbiota in the pathogenesis of allergic disorders. The administration of probiotics, strains of bacteria from the healthy human gut microbiota, have been shown to stimulate antiinflammatory, tolerogenic immune responses, the lack of which has been implied in the development of atopic disorders. Thus probiotics may prove beneficial in the prevention and alleviation of allergic disease.

MeSH terms

  • Food Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Food Hypersensitivity / microbiology
  • Food Hypersensitivity / prevention & control
  • Food Hypersensitivity / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intestinal Mucosa / drug effects
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology*
  • Intestines / immunology
  • Intestines / microbiology*
  • Probiotics / therapeutic use*