Respiratory Tract Infections and the Role of Biologically Active Polysaccharides in Their Management and Prevention

Nutrients. 2017 Jul 20;9(7):779. doi: 10.3390/nu9070779.


Respiratory tract infections (RTIs) are the most common form of infections in every age category. Recurrent respiratory tract infections (RRTIs), a specific form of RTIs, represent a typical and common problem associated with early childhood, causing high indirect and direct costs on the healthcare system. They are usually the consequence of immature immunity in children and high exposure to various respiratory pathogens. Their rational management should aim at excluding other severe chronic diseases associated with increased morbidity (e.g., primary immunodeficiency syndromes, cystic fibrosis, and ciliary dyskinesia) and at supporting maturity of the mucosal immune system. However, RRTIs can also be observed in adults (e.g., during exhausting and stressful periods, chronic inflammatory diseases, secondary immunodeficiencies, or in elite athletes) and require greater attention. Biologically active polysaccharides (e.g., β-glucans) are one of the most studied natural immunomodulators with a pluripotent mode of action and biological activity. According to many studies, they possess immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, and anti-infectious activities and therefore could be suggested as an effective part of treating and preventing RTIs. Based on published studies, the application of β-glucans was proven as a possible therapeutic and preventive approach in managing and preventing recurrent respiratory tract infections in children (especially β-glucans from Pleurotus ostreatus), adults (mostly the studies with yeast-derived β-glucans), and in elite athletes (studies with β-glucans from Pleurotus ostreatus or yeast).

Keywords: biologically active polysaccharides; immunomodulation; prevention; recurrent respiratory tract infections; β-glucans.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletes
  • Databases, Factual
  • Disease Management*
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors / therapeutic use
  • Pleurotus / chemistry
  • Polysaccharides / therapeutic use*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / drug therapy*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / prevention & control*
  • Sports Medicine
  • beta-Glucans / therapeutic use*


  • Immunologic Factors
  • Polysaccharides
  • beta-Glucans