Probiotics and autoimmunity: an evolutionary perspective

Med Hypotheses. 2008;70(3):657-60. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2007.07.008. Epub 2007 Aug 27.


Probiotics are microorganisms that have demonstrated beneficial effects on human health. Probiotics are usually isolated from the commensal microflora that inhabits the skin and mucosas. We propose that probiotics represent the species of microorganisms that have established a symbiotic relationship with humans for the longest time. Cultural practices of ancient human societies used to favor that symbiosis and the transmission of probiotics from generation to generation. New practices, introduced as a result of industrialization, such as childbirth by surgical delivery, ingestion of pasteurized and synthetic compounds-supplemented food, cleaner homes, indiscriminate use of antibiotics and so on, have led in recent years to the replacement of probiotics by other microorganisms that are not as well adapted to the microenvironments of the human body. These newly settled microorganisms lack many of the beneficial effects of probiotics. Our hypothesis is that the sudden change (from an evolutive perspective) in human intestinal microflora may importantly contribute to the rise in the incidence of autoimmune diseases, observed in the last half a century.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmunity*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Immunological
  • Probiotics / therapeutic use*
  • Symbiosis