The interactions of micro-organisms cohabitating with Homo sapiens spans millennia, with microbial communities living in a symbiotic relationship with the host. Interacting to regulate and maintain physiological functions and immunological tolerance, the microbial community is able to exert an influence on host health. An example of micro-organisms contributing to an intestinal disease state is exhibited by a biodiverse range of protozoan and bacterial species that damage the intestinal epithelia and are therefore implicated in the symptoms of diarrhea. As a contentious exemplar, Blastocystis hominis is a ubiquitous enteric protist that can adversely affect the intestines. The symptoms experienced are a consequence of the responses of the innate immune system triggered by the disruption of the intestinal barrier. The infiltration of the intestinal epithelial barrier involves a host of immune receptors, including toll like receptors and IgM/IgG/IgA antibodies as well as CD8+ T cells, macrophages, and neutrophils. Whilst the mechanisms of interactions between the intestinal microbiome and protozoan parasites remain incompletely understood, it is acknowledged that the intestinal microbiota is a key factor in the pathophysiology of parasitic infections. Modulating the intestinal environment through the administration of probiotics has been postulated as a possible therapeutic agent to control the proliferation of intestinal microbes through their capacity to induce competition for occupation of a common biotype. The ultimate goal of this mechanism is to prevent infections of the like of giardiasis and eliminate its symptoms. The differing types of probiotics (i.e., bacteria and yeast) modulate immunity by stimulating the host immune system. Early animal studies support the potential benefits of probiotic administration to prevent intestinal infections, with human clinical studies showing probiotics can reduce the number of parasites and the severity of symptoms. The early clinical indications endorse probiotics as adjuncts in the pharmaceutical treatment of protozoan infections. Currently, the bar is set low for the conduct of well-designed clinical studies that will translate the use of probiotics to ameliorate protozoan infections, therefore the requisite is for further clinical research.
Keywords: blastocystosis; giardiasis; intestinal dysbiosis; probiotics; protozoans.