Background: Probiotics are defined as live micro-organisms which confer a health benefit on the host. Although most probiotics are bacteria, one strain of yeast, Saccharomyces boulardii, has been found to be an effective probiotic in double-blind clinical studies.
Aims: To compare the main properties that differentiates yeast from bacteria and to review the properties of S. boulardii explaining its potential benefits as a probiotic.
Methods: The PubMed and Medline databases were searched using the keywords 'probiotics', 'yeast', 'antibiotic associated diarrhea', 'Saccharomyces boulardii','bacterial diarrhea' and 'inflammatory bowel disease' in various combinations.
Results: Several clinical studies have been conducted with S. boulardii in the treatment and prevention of various forms of diarrhoea. Promising research perspectives have been opened in terms of maintenance treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases. The mechanism of S. boulardii's action has been partially elucidated.
Conclusion: Saccharomyces boulardii is a strain of yeast which has been extensively studied for its probiotic effects. The clinical activity of S. boulardii is especially relevant to antibiotic-associated diarrhoea and recurrent Clostridium difficile intestinal infections. Experimental studies clearly demonstrate that S. boulardii has specific probiotic properties, and recent data has opened the door for new therapeutic uses of this yeast as an 'immunobiotic'.