Objective: This study determined whether older adults who consumed a probiotic mixture would have a greater proportion of circulating CD4+ lymphocytes, altered cytokine production, and a shift in intestinal microbiota toward a healthier microbial community.
Methods: Participants (70 ± 1 years [mean ± SEM]; n = 32) consumed a probiotic (Lactobacillus gasseri KS-13, Bifidobacterium bifidum G9-1, and Bifidobacterium longum MM2) or a placebo twice daily for 3 weeks with a 5-week washout period between intervention periods. Blood and stools were collected before and after each intervention. The percentage of circulating CD4+ lymphocytes and ex vivo mitogen-stimulated cell cytokine production were measured. In stools, specific bacterial targets were quantified via quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) and community composition was determined via pyrosequencing.
Results: During the first period of the crossover the percentage of CD4+ cells decreased with the placebo (48% ± 3% to 31% ± 3%, p < 0.01) but did not change with the probiotic (44% ± 3% to 42% ± 3%) and log-transformed concentrations of interleukin-10 increased with the probiotic (1.7 ± 0.2 to 3.4 ± 0.2, p < 0.0001) but not the placebo (1.7 ± 0.2 to 2.1 ± 0.2). With the probiotic versus the placebo a higher percentage of participants had an increase in fecal bifidobacteria (48% versus 30%, p < 0.05) and lactic acid bacteria (55% versus 43%, p < 0.05) and a decrease in Escherichia coli (52% versus 27%, p < 0.05). Several bacterial groups matching Faeacalibactierium prausnitzii were more prevalent in stool samples with the probiotic versus placebo.
Conclusions: The probiotic maintained CD4+ lymphocytes and produced a less inflammatory cytokine profile possibly due to the changes in the microbial communities, which more closely resembled those reported in healthy younger populations.
Keywords: Bifidobacterium bifidum G9-1; Bifidobacterium longum MM-2; Lactobacillus gasseri KS-13; cytokines; gastrointestinal function; gut microbiota; immune function; inflammation; older adults; probiotics.