The gut microbiota has a significant role in human health and disease. Dysbiosis of the intestinal ecosystem contributes to the development of certain illnesses that can be reversed by favorable alterations by probiotics. The published literature was reviewed to identify scientific data showing a relationship between imbalance of gut bacteria and development of diseases that can be improved by biologic products. The medical conditions vary from infectious and antibiotic-associated diarrhea to obesity to chronic neurologic disorders. A number of controlled clinical trials have been performed to show important biologic effects in a number of these conditions through administration of prebiotics, probiotics, and synbiotics. Controlled clinical trials have identified a limited number of prebiotics, probiotic strains, and synbiotics that favorably prevent or improve the symptoms of various disorders including inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, infectious and antibiotic-associated diarrhea, diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, necrotizing enterocolitis in very low birth weight infants, and hepatic encephalopathy. Studies have shown that probiotics alter gut flora and lead to elaboration of flora metabolites that influence health through 1 of 3 general mechanisms: direct antimicrobial effects, enhancement of mucosal barrier integrity, and immune modulation. Restoring the balance of intestinal flora by introducing probiotics for disease prevention and treatment could be beneficial to human health. It is also clear that significant differences exist between different probiotic species. Metagenomics and metatranscriptomics together with bioinformatics have allowed us to study the cross-talk between the gut microbiota and the host, furthering insight into the next generation of biologic products.
Keywords: bifidobacteria; lactobacilli; prebiotics; probiotics; synbiotics.
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