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Background: Intestinal microbiotas are thought to be the most important source of maturational stimuli to the development of the immune system. However, few studies have focused on the development of T helper (Th) 1 immune response and antibody response to vaccinations in healthy infants, especially in a large cohort. Through this randomized, double-blind control trial, we investigated the effects of Bifidobacterium longum BB536 (BB536) supplementation on intestinal microbiota composition and the immune response in term infants.

Methods: In total, 300 healthy newborns were recruited, randomized and fed formula either supplemented with BB536 or with no supplementation. Stool samples were analyzed at months 2, 4 and 11. The representative cytokine for Th1 [interferon-γ (IFN-γ)] and Th2 [interleukin-4 (IL-4)] secretion cells were measured using enzyme-linked immunospot assay at 4 and 7 months of age. The antibody response to vaccines was measured at months 7 and 11.

Results: A total of 264 infants completed the study. The amount of bifidobacteria and the bifidobacteria/ Enterobacteriaceae ratio (B/E) were significantly higher in the BB536 supplementation group at months 2 and 4. The number of IFN-γ secretion cells and the ratio of IFN-γ/IL-4 secretion cells were increased in the BB536 supplementation group at 7 months. Moreover, the higher value of B/E in the early stages seems to be related to the increased Th1 response. No difference was observed between groups in the antibody response after vaccination.

Conclusion: BB536 has positive effects on establishing a healthy intestinal microbiota early in life, and it also plays an important role in improving the Th1 immune response.

Keywords: T helper 1/T helper 2 balance; intestinal microbiota; probiotics supplementation; term infants; vaccination.

Research Insights

SupplementHealth OutcomeEffect TypeEffect Size
Bifidobacterium longum BB536Improved Immune ResponseBeneficial
Bifidobacterium longum BB536Improved Intestinal Microbial CompositionBeneficial

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