In the first human study of its kind, scientists at the Institute of Food Research found that probiotic bacteria in a daily drink can modify the immune system’s response to grass pollen, a common cause of seasonal hay fever.
But they are not recommending that sufferers rush to the supermarket shelves just yet. The changes found may not have an immediate effect on symptoms.
“This was a pilot study based on small numbers of patients, but we were fascinated to discover a response”, says research leader Professor Claudio Nicoletti. “The probiotic significantly reduced the production of molecules associated with allergy.”
Hayfever is an allergic reaction to pollen or fungal spores, most commonly grass pollen. The immune system mistakes the spores for harmful invaders and produces excessive amounts of the antibody IgE to bind to them and fight them off.
IgE stimulates the release of histamine to flush out the spores, and this irritates the airways making them swell and producing the symptoms of hayfever.
In this study, volunteers with a history of seasonal hay fever drank a daily milk drink with or without live bacteria over 5 months. The study was double-blinded and placebo controlled, so neither the volunteers nor the scientists knew who had been assigned the probiotic drinks. The probiotic drinks contained Lactobacillus casei, a bacterial species that has been widely studied for its health promoting properties.
Blood samples were taken before the grass pollen season, then again when it was at its peak (June), and 4 weeks after the end of season. There were no significant differences in levels of IgE in the blood between the two groups at the start of the study, but IgE levels were lower in the probiotic group both at the peak season and afterwards.
At the same times, levels of the antibody IgG were higher, a type of antibody that in contrast to IgE is thought to play a protective role against allergic reactions.
“The probiotic strain we tested changed the way the body’s immune cells respond to grass pollen, restoring a more balanced immune response”, says Dr Kamal Ivory, a senior member of the group.
The changes observed may also reduce the severity of symptoms, but clinical symptoms were not measured in this study. That is one aim of further research.
“These are really interesting results”, says Dr Linda Thomas, head of science at Yakult UK, who provided the drinks and some of the funding. “We are delighted that independent scientists found evidence of this biological activity. The project was part of ongoing research into the benefits of our probiotic strain. The Institute of Food Research is well positioned to do this kind of fundamental research, as it is unique in having the right combination of expertise in microbiology, immunology, flow cytometry and human nutrition research.”
Professor Nicoletti’s group intend to perform a similar study in the near future to see if the immunological changes translate into a real reduction in the clinical symptoms of hayfever. They would also like to examine the mechanisms involved.
ContactsZoe Dunford, Media Manager, Institute of Food Research
Zoe Dunford | alfa
New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)
Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.
In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...
Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...
For the first time, scientists have succeeded in studying the strength of hydrogen bonds in a single molecule using an atomic force microscope. Researchers from the University of Basel’s Swiss Nanoscience Institute network have reported the results in the journal Science Advances.
Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe and is an integral part of almost all organic compounds. Molecules and sections of macromolecules are...
22.05.2017 | Event News
17.05.2017 | Event News
16.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.05.2017 | Life Sciences
22.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy