Background: The microbiota colonizing the gastrointestinal tract have been associated with both gastrointestinal and extra-gastrointestinal diseases. In recent years, considerable interest has been devoted to their role in the development of neurologic diseases, as many studies have described bidirectional communication between the central nervous system and the gut, the so-called "microbiota-gut-brain axis". Considering the ability of probiotics (i.e., live non-pathogenic microorganisms) to restore the normal microbial population and produce benefits for the host, their potential effects have been investigated in the context of neurologic diseases. The main aims of this review are to analyse the relationship between the gut microbiota and brain disorders and to evaluate the current evidence for the use of probiotics in the treatment and prevention of neurologic conditions.
Discussion: Overall, trials involving animal models and adults have reported encouraging results, suggesting that the administration of probiotic strains may exert some prophylactic and therapeutic effects in a wide range of neurologic conditions. Studies involving children have mainly focused on autism spectrum disorder and have shown that probiotics seem to improve neuro behavioural symptoms. However, the available data are incomplete and far from conclusive.
Conclusions: The potential usefulness of probiotics in preventing or treating neurologic diseases is becoming a topic of great interest. However, deeper studies are needed to understand which formulation, dosage and timing might represent the optimal regimen for each specific neurologic disease and what populations can benefit. Moreover, future trials should also consider the tolerability and safety of probiotics in patients with neurologic diseases.
Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder; Brain; Gut microbiota; Microbiota; Probiotics.