Probiotic lactic acid bacteria can signal the immune system through innate cell surface pattern recognition receptors or via direct lymphoid cell activation. In some cases, this action has been shown to be sufficient to modulate local- and systemic-level in vivo immune responses. Practical applications of probiotics include their use in anti-tumour and anti-allergy immunotherapy, but there is also increasing evidence that some probiotics can stimulate a protective immune response sufficiently to enhance resistance to microbial pathogens. This review outlines the experimental and clinical evidence for enhanced anti-microbial immune protection by probiotic lactic acid bacteria, focussing on those studies where a correlative or suggestive link has been shown between immune modulation and enhanced protection. © 2002 Federation of European Microbiological Societies. Published by Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
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