A successful history: probiotics and their potential as antimicrobials

Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2019 Aug;17(8):635-645. doi: 10.1080/14787210.2019.1645597. Epub 2019 Jul 25.


Introduction: Probiotics are living, non-pathogenic microorganisms (bacteria) that enter through diet in the human body, live during their passage through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and are beneficial to health. They have become popular in recent years as a way of improving human health through nutrition. This review aims to discuss the efficacy of probiotics for the supportive therapy of certain clinical conditions, especially infectious diseases, as reported in a number of studies, even though some concerns about their safety still remain. Areas covered: This paper will review the history of probiotics, from ancient ages to date, and the evolution of their use in clinical practice. The study is based on both personal professional experience of the authors and a comprehensive literature analysis, including old documents from libraries, searching the related biological and clinical data on Scopus, Web of Science, PubMed, EMBASE, also using the 'cited by' and 'similar articles' options available in PubMed. Expert opinion: Not all researchers agree about the safety and real efficacy of probiotics in common conditions, especially infective diseases. However, the use of probiotics for clinical conditions that may be improved by consumption of these dietary supplements should be considered as a possible supportive therapy in select patients.

Keywords: Metchnikoff; Probiotics; fermented food; history of medicine; human microbiota.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Infective Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Infective Agents / adverse effects
  • Communicable Diseases / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Probiotics / administration & dosage*
  • Probiotics / adverse effects
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Infective Agents