The decline of the immune system with aging leads elderly people to be more susceptible to infections, posing high risk for their health. Vaccination is thus important to cope with this risk, even though not always effective. As a strategy to improve protection, adjuvants are used in concomitance with vaccines, however, occasionally producing important side effects.
The use of probiotics has been proposed as an alternative to adjuvants due to their efficacy in reducing the risk of common infections through the interactions with the immune system and the gut microbiota. A placebo-controlled, randomized, double-blind, clinical trial was carried out on fifty elderly subjects, vaccinated for influenza, to determine the efficacy of a probiotic mixture in reducing common infection symptoms. The incidence of symptoms was evaluated after 28 days of probiotic intake (namely, T28) and after further 28 days of follow-up (namely, T56).
The number of subjects, as well as the number of days with symptoms, was remarkably reduced at T28, and even more at T56 in the probiotic group. Furthermore, the influence of probiotics on immunological parameters was investigated, showing a significant positive improvement of total antioxidant capacity and β-defensin2 levels. Finally, faecal samples collected from participants were used to assess variations in the gut microbiota composition during the study, showing that probiotic intake enhanced the presence of genera related to a healthy status
Therefore, the collected results suggested that the treatment with the selected probiotic mixture could help in reducing common infectious disease symptom incidence through the stimulation of the immune system, improving vaccine efficacy, and modulating the composition of the resident gut microbiota by enhancing beneficial genera.