Purpose of review: The intestinal immune system is constantly exposed to foreign antigens, which for the most part should be tolerated. Certain probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics are able to influence immune responses. In this review, we highlight the recent publications (within the last 2 years) that have substantially progressed this field.
Recent findings: The immunological mechanisms underpinning probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics effects continue to be better defined with novel mechanisms being described for dendritic cells, epithelial cells, T regulatory cells, effector lymphocytes, natural killer T cells, and B cells. Many of the mechanisms being described are bacterial strain or metabolite specific, and should not be extrapolated to other probiotics or prebiotics. In addition, the timing of intervention seems to be important, with potentially the greatest effects being observed early in life.
Summary: In this review, we discuss the recent findings relating to probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics, specifically their effects on immunological functions.