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Keywords:

  • lactobacilli;
  • NK T cells;
  • placebo-controlled;
  • probiotics;
  • T cell activation

Summary

Probiotics are live microorganisms which have beneficial effects on the host when ingested in adequate amounts. Probiotic bacteria may stimulate immune effector functions in a strain-specific manner. In this blind placebo-controlled trial, we investigated the effects on the immune system following daily intake of six different strains of lactobacilli or the Gram-negative bacterium Pseudomonas lundensis for 2 or 5 weeks. Blood lymphocyte subsets were quantified by fluorescence activated cell sorter and the expression of activation and memory markers was determined. The bacterial strains were also examined for their capacity to adhere to human intestinal cells and to be phagocytosed by human peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Intake of Lactobacillus plantarum strain 299v increased the expression of the activation marker CD25 (P = 0·01) on CD8+ T cells and the memory cell marker CD45RO on CD4+ T cells (P = 0·03), whereas intake of L. paracasei tended to expand the natural killer T (NK T) cell population (P = 0·06). The phagocytic activity of granulocytes was increased following intake of L. plantarum 299v, L. plantarum HEAL, L. paracasei or L. fermentum. In contrast, ingestion of L. rhamnosus decreased the expression of CD25 and CD45RO significantly within the CD4+ cell population. The observed immune effects after in-vivo administration of the probiotic bacteria could not be predicted by either their adherence capacity or the in-vitro-induced cytokine production. The stimulation of CD8+ T cells and NK T cells suggests that intake of probiotic bacteria may enhance the immune defence against, e.g. viral infections or tumours.