Background Clinical studies indicate that maternal exposure to probiotic bacteria may protect from the development of allergic disease later in life.
Objective The purpose of this study was to analyse the effects of a perinatal Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) supplementation on the development of allergic disorders in offspring.
Methods Female BALB/c mice received intragastric LGG every other day before conception, during pregnancy and lactation (perinatal supplementation group) or before conception and during pregnancy only (prenatal supplementation group). Cytokine expression of placental tissues was examined. Offspring of LGG-supplemented and sham-exposed mothers were sensitized to Ovalbumin (OVA), followed by aerosol allergen challenges. Development of experimental asthma was assessed by bronchoalveolar lavage analysis, lung histology and lung function measurement. Cytokine production of splenic mononuclear cells was analysed following in vitro stimulation.
Results Intestinal colonization with LGG was observed in mother mice only, but not in the offspring. However, a reduced expression of TNF-α, IFN-γ, IL-5 as well as IL-10 was observed in mice derived from perinatally LGG-supplemented mothers, whereas IL-13 and IL-4 expression remained unchanged. Moreover, in offspring of prenatally or perinatally LGG-supplemented mothers allergic airway and peribronchial inflammation as well as goblet cell hyperplasia were significantly reduced as compared with mice derived from non-supplemented mothers. In contrast, airway hyperresponsiveness to methacholine was not affected. Exposure to LGG during pregnancy only shifted the placental cytokine expression pattern with a markedly increased TNF-α level.
Conclusion Our data suggest that LGG may exert beneficial effects on the development of experimental allergic asthma, when applied in a very early phase of life. Immunological effects are, at least in parts, mediated via the placenta, probably by induction of pro-inflammatory cell signals.