There is a strong relationship between liver and gut: the portal system receives blood from the gut, and intestinal blood content activates liver functions. The liver, in turn, affects intestinal functions through bile secretion into the intestinal lumen. Alterations of intestinal microbiota seem to play an important role in induction and promotion of liver damage progression, in addition to direct injury resulting from different causal agents. Bacterial overgrowth, immune dysfunction, alteration of the luminal factors, and altered intestinal permeability are all involved in the pathogenesis of complications of liver cirrhosis, such as infections, hepatic encephalopathy, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, and renal failure. Probiotics have been suggested as a useful integrative treatment of different types of chronic liver damage, for their ability to augment intestinal barrier function and prevent bacterial translocation. This review summarizes the main literature findings about the relationships between gut microbiota and chronic liver disease, both in the pathogenesis and in the treatment by probiotics of the liver damage. 2010 Editrice Gastroenterologica Italiana S.r.l.
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