Therapeutic interventions for gut dysbiosis and related disorders in the elderly: antibiotics, probiotics or faecal microbiota transplantation?

Benef Microbes. 2017 Apr 26;8(2):179-192. doi: 10.3920/BM2016.0115. Epub 2016 Dec 23.


Ageing and physiological functions of the human body are inversely proportional to each other. The gut microbiota and host immune system co-evolve from infants to the elderly. Ageing is accompanied by a decline in gut microbial diversity, immunity and metabolism, which increases susceptibility to infections. Any compositional change in the gut is directly linked to gastrointestinal disorders, obesity and metabolic diseases. Increase in opportunistic pathogen invasion in the gut like Clostridium difficile leading to C. difficile infection is more common in the elderly population. Frequent hospitalisation and high prevalence of nosocomial infections with the ageing is also well documented. Long-term utilisation of broad-spectrum antibiotic therapy is being followed in order to control these infections. Nosocomial infections and antibiotic therapy in combination or alone is leading to gastroenteritis followed by Clostridium associated diarrhoea or antibiotic associated diarrhoea. Above all, use of broad-spectrum antibiotics is highly debated all over the world due to growing antimicrobial resistance. The use of narrow spectrum antibiotics could be helpful to some extent. Dietary supplementation of probiotics with prebiotics (synbiotics) or without prebiotics has improved gut commensal diversity and regulated the immune system. The recent emergence of faecal microbiota transplantation has played an important role in treating recurrent Clostridium associated diarrhoea. This review focuses on various therapeutic interventions for gut dysbiosis and gastrointestinal diseases in the elderly. The possible mechanism for antimicrobial resistance and mechanism of action of probiotics are also discussed in detail.

Keywords: age-specific; antibiotic resistance; feacal microbiota; gut microbiota; synbiotics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Clostridioides difficile / drug effects
  • Cross Infection / epidemiology
  • Cross Infection / microbiology
  • Dietary Supplements / microbiology
  • Dysbiosis / therapy*
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / microbiology
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / therapy*
  • Fecal Microbiota Transplantation*
  • Gastroenteritis / chemically induced
  • Gastroenteritis / microbiology
  • Gastroenteritis / therapy*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome
  • Humans
  • Prebiotics / administration & dosage*
  • Probiotics / therapeutic use*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Prebiotics