Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-768ffcd9cc-kfj7r Total loading time: 0.354 Render date: 2022-12-03T10:19:34.115Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

Prebiotics and resistance to gastrointestinal infections

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 March 2007

G. R. Gibson*
Food Microbial Sciences Unit, School of Food Biosciences, The University of Reading, P. O. Box 226, Whiteknights, Reading, RG6 6AP, UK
A. L. McCartney
Food Microbial Sciences Unit, School of Food Biosciences, The University of Reading, P. O. Box 226, Whiteknights, Reading, RG6 6AP, UK
R. A. Rastall
Food Microbial Sciences Unit, School of Food Biosciences, The University of Reading, P. O. Box 226, Whiteknights, Reading, RG6 6AP, UK
*Corresponding author: Dr Glenn R. Gibson, fax +44 1189 357222, email
Rights & Permissions[Opens in a new window]


HTML view is not available for this content. However, as you have access to this content, a full PDF is available via the ‘Save PDF’ action button.

Acute gut disorder is a cause for significant medicinal and economic concern. Certain individual pathogens of the gut, often transmitted in food or water, have the ability to cause severe discomfort. There is a need to manage such conditions more effectively. The route of reducing the risk of intestinal infections through diet remains largely unexplored. Antibiotics are effective at inhibiting pathogens; however, these should not be prescribed in the absence of disease and therefore cannot be used prophylactically. Moreover, their indiscriminate use has reduced effectiveness. Evidence has accumulated to suggestthat some of the health-promoting bacteria in the gut (probiotics) can elicit a multiplicity of inhibitory effects against pathogens. Hence, an increase in their numbers should prove effective at repressing pathogen colonisation if/when infectious agents enter the gut. As such, fortification of indigenous bifidobacteria/lactobacilli by using prebiotics should improve protection. There are a number of potential mechanisms for lactic acid bacteria to reduce intestinal infections. Firstly, metabolic endproducts such as acids excreted by these micro-organisms may lower the gut pH to levels below those at which pathogens are able to effectively compete. Also, many lactobacilli and bifidobacteria species are able to excrete natural antibiotics, which can have a broad spectrum of activity. Other mechanisms include an improved immune stimulation, competition for nutrients and blocking of pathogen adhesion sites in the gut. Many intestinal pathogens like type 1 fimbriated Escherichia coli, salmonellae and campylobacters utilise oligosaccharide receptor sites in the gut. Once established, they can then cause gastroenteritis through invasive and/or toxin forming properties. One extrapolation of the prebiotic concept is to simulate such receptor sites in the gut lumen. Hence, the pathogen is ‘decoyed’ into not binding at the host mucosal interface. The combined effects of prebiotics upon the lactic acid flora and anti-adhesive strategies may lead towards new dietary interventions against food safety agents.

Research Article
Copyright © The Nutrition Society 2005


Asahara, T, Nomoto, K, Shimizu, K, Watanuki, M & Tanaka, R (2001) Increased resistance of mice to Salmonella enteritica serovar Typhymurium infection by synbiotic administration of bifidobacteria and transgalactosylated-oligosaccharides. J Appl Microbiol 91, 985996.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bouhnik, Y, Flourie, B, Ouarne, F, Riottot, M, Bisetti, N, Bornet, F & Rambaud, JC (1994) Effects of prolonged ingestion of fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) on colonic bifidobacteria, fecal enzymes and bile acids in humans. Gastroenterology 106, A598.Google Scholar
Brück, WB, Kelleher, S, Gibson, GR, Nielsen, KE, Chatterton, DEW & Lönnerdal, B (2003) rRNA probes used to quantify the effects of glycomacropeptide and α-lactalbumin supplementation on the predominant groups of intestinal microflora of infant rhesus monkeys challenged with enteropathogenic Escherichia coli. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 37, 273280.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Buddington, RK, Williams, CH, Chen, S & Witherly, SA (1996) Dietary supplement of neosugar alters the fecal flora and decreases activities of some reductive enzymes in human subjects. Am J Clin Nutr 63, 709716.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Buddington, KK, Danohoo, JB & Buddington, RK (2002) Dietary oligofructose and inulin protect mice from enteric and systemic pathogens and tumour inducers. J Nutr 132, 472477.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Crittenden, RG & Playne, MJ (1996) Production, properties and applications of food-grade oligosaccharides. Trends Food Sci Technol 7, 353361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cummings, JH, Christie, S & Cole, TJ (2001) A study of fructooligosaccharides in the prevention of travellers' diarrhoea. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 15, 11391145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Finlay, BB & Falkow, S (1989) Common themes in microbial pathogenicity. Microbiol Rev 53, 210230.Google ScholarPubMed
Gibson, GR & Wang, X (1994a) Enrichment of bifidobacteria from human gut contents by oligofructose using continuous culture. FEMS Microbiol Lett 118, 121128.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Gibson, GR & Wang, X (1994b) Regulatory effects of bifidobacteria on the growth of other colonic bacteria. J Appl Bacteriol 77, 412420.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Gibson, GR & Wang, X (1994c) Bifidogenic properties of different types of fructo-oligosaccharides. Food Microbiol 11, 491498.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gibson, GR, Willis, CL & Van Loo, J (1994) Non-digestible oligosaccharides and bifidobacteria – implications for health. Int Sugar J 96, 381387.Google Scholar
Gibson, GR, Beatty, ER, Wang, X & Cummings, JH (1995) Selective stimulation of bifidobacteria in the human colon by oligofructose and inulin. Gastroenterology 108, 975982.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Gibson, GR, Saavedra, JM, Macfarlane, S & Macfarlane, GT (1997) Gastrointestinal microbial disease. Probiotics 2: Application and Practical Aspects, 1039 [Fuller, R, editor]. Andover: Chapman and Hall.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Heerze, LD, Kelm, MA & Talbot, JA (1994) Oligosaccharide sequences attached to an inert support (SYNSORB) as potential therapy for antibiotic-associated diarrhoea and pseudomembranous colitis. J Infect Dis 169, 12911296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hidaka, H, Eida, T, Takizawa, T, Tokunaga, T & Tashiro, Y (1986) Effects of fructooligosaccharides on intestinal flora and human health. Bifidobacteria Microflora 5, 3750.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jayaraman, N, Nepogodiev, SA & Stoddart, JF (1997) Synthetic carbohydrate-containing dendimers. Chem Eur J 3, 11931199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Karlsson, KA (1989) Animal glycosphingolipids as membrane attachment sites for bacteria. Annu Rev Biochem 58, 309350.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Kleessen, B, Sykura, B, Zunft, H-J & Blaut, M (1997) Effects of inulin and lactose on fecal microflora, microbial activity and bowel habit in elderly constipated persons. Am J Clin Nutr 65, 13971402.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
McBain, AJ & Macfarlane, GT (1997) Investigations of bifidobacterial ecology and oligosaccharide metabolism in a three-stage compound continuous culture system. Scand J Gastoenterol 32, 3240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Meyer, DP, Tungland, BC, Causey, JL & Slavin, JL (2000) The immune effects of inulin in vitro and in vivo. Agro-Food Ind Hi Technol 11, 1820.Google Scholar
Mitsuoka, T (1990) Bifidobacteria and their role in human health. J Ind Microbiol 6, 263268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mizota, T (1996) Functional and nutritional foods containing bifidogenic factors. Bull Int Dairy Found 313, 3135.Google Scholar
Oli, MW, Petschow, BW & Buddington, RK (1998) Evaluation of fructooligosaccharide supplementation of oral electrolyte solutions for treatment of diarrhea. Recovery of the intestinal bacteria. Dig Dis Sci 43, 138147.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Park, SF & Kroll, RG (1993) Expression of listeriolysin and phosphatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C is repressed by the plant-derived molecule cellobiose in Listeria monocytogenes. Mol Microbiol 8, 653661.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Sghir, A, Chow, JM & Mackie, RI (1998) Continuous culture selection of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli from human faecal samples using fructooligosaccharide as selective substrate. J Appl Microbiol 85, 769777.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Tuohy, KM, Finlay, RK, Wynne, AG & Gibson, GR (2001) A human volunteer study on the prebiotic effects of HP-Inulin – gut bacteria enumerated using fluorescent in situ hybridisation (FISH). Anaerobe 7, 113118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wang, X & Gibson, GR (1993) Effects of the in vitro fermentation of oligofructose and inulin by bacteria growing in the human large intestine. J Appl Bacteriol 75, 373380.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Williams, CH, Witherly, SA & Buddington, RK (1994) Influence of dietary neosugar on selected bacterial groups of the human faecal microbiota. Microb Ecol Health Dis 7, 9197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
You have Access
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Prebiotics and resistance to gastrointestinal infections
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Prebiotics and resistance to gastrointestinal infections
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Prebiotics and resistance to gastrointestinal infections
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *