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Probiotics Reduce Frequency of Upper Respiratory Infections

8/7/2018 1:24:03 PM
Supporting immune function may reduce the frequency of upper respiratory infections (URIs), and probiotics are known to balance both the innate and adaptive immune responses. A randomized controlled trial, published in the European Journal of Nutrition 2011, showed that taking a combination of Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus paracasei reduced the frequency and severity of the common cold in healthy adults. Researchers at the Beijing Chaoyang Hospital then conducted a 12-week intervention trial to further evaluate the effects of probiotic supplementation in adults with frequent URIs.  
The study sample included 136 healthy adults (aged 25-45 years) who had experienced 4 or more URIs (common cold or influenza-like symptoms) in the last year. Participants were randomized to take a probiotic drink or placebo drink for 12 weeks. The probiotic drink provided Lactobacillus paracasei (30 million CFUs/ml), Lactobacillus casei 431 (30 million CFUs/ml), and Lactobacillus fermentium PCC (3 million CFUs/ml) in a 150-ml drink each day.
During the 12-week intervention, participants taking the probiotic drink experienced significantly fewer fevers (3 in the probiotic group and 11 in placebo) and URI symptoms (13 in the probiotic group and 25 in placebo). Also, significantly fewer participants in the probiotic group received drug treatment for URIs during the study period (3 in the probiotic group and 24 in placebo). The overall incidence of URIs during the study period was 19% in the probiotic group and 46% in the placebo group (p<.05).
Analysis of immune markers showed that participants in the probiotic group had significantly higher IFN-gamma in the serum when compared with baseline and when compared with placebo, indicating activation of the TH-1 response. No changes were detected in IL-4 or IL-10, indicating no activation of the TH-2 response. There were also significant increases in gut sIgA in the probiotic group, indicating activation of the mucosal immune response.
The results of this study suggest that a probiotic drink, providing approximately 9.5 billion CFUs of Lactobacilli organisms per day, modulates the immune system to reduce the frequency of common cold and influenza-like respiratory infections in healthy adults.
Zhang H, Yeh C, Jin Z et al. Prospective study of probiotic supplementation results in immune stimulation and improvement of upper respiratory infection rate. Synth Syst Biotechnol. 2018; 3: 113-120.
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