Background: Changes in the composition of the gut microbiota have been implicated in the pathogenesis of allergic disorders, suggesting beneficial interactions between the intestinal immune system and specific bacterial strains. Lactobacilli are naturally present within the complex gastrointestinal microbiota of humans and they are currently present in many probiotic supplements.
Objective: We sought to investigate the role that Lactobacillus casei Shirota (LcS) may play in modulating seasonal allergic rhinitis (SAR).
Methods: The study format was double-blinded, placebo-controlled with 10 SAR sufferers in each group. We have documented and compared changes in immune status arising through the daily ingestion of a milk drink with or without live LcS, over a period of 5 months. Pre-, peak- and post-grass pollen season blood samples were collected for determination of plasma total IgE and grass pollen-specific IgG and IgE levels by an enzyme immunoassay. At the same time, cytokine levels were determined by flow cytometric bead array technology following culture of peripheral blood mononuclear cells for 6 days in the presence or absence of specific grass pollen antigens.
Results: Volunteers treated with LcS showed a significant reduction in levels of antigen-induced IL-5, IL-6 and IFN-gamma production compared with volunteers supplemented with placebo. Meanwhile, levels of specific IgG increased and IgE decreased in the probiotic group.
Conclusion: Changes in antigen-induced production of cytokines were observed in patients treated with probiotics. These data show that probiotic supplementation modulates immune responses in allergic rhinitis and may have the potential to alleviate the severity of symptoms.