Background: Previous studies suggest that administration of probiotics in vitro can stimulate regulatory and Th1 immune responses. We studied both the in vitro immunological effects of probiotics and the ex vivo immunological effects after oral administration of probiotics in children with food allergy, a Th2-mediated disease. Methods: Thirteen children were enrolled. Probiotics (n = 7) or placebo (n = 6) were orally administered during 3 months. At baseline and after 1 and 3 months, peripheral blood mononuclear cells were stimulated with crude peanut extract, anti-CD3, or anti-CD40 and IL-4 in the presence (in vitro response) or absence (ex vivo response) of probiotics. The proliferation and production of IFN-γ, IL-5, IL-13, IL-10, TNF-α, IL-6 and IgE were analyzed. Sensitization to peanut, cow’s milk and hen’s egg was determined before and after treatment. Results: The in vitro addition of probiotics to peripheral blood mononuclear cell cultures resulted in enhanced proliferation and production of IFN-γ, IL-10 and TNF-α. After oral treatment, proliferation in the presence of probiotics increased, whereas in vitro IgE production decreased in the probiotics group compared to baseline. The ex vivo production of IL-10, TNF-α and IL-6 tended to decrease. Th1 and Th2 cytokines were not altered. Sensitization remained unchanged. Conclusion: Probiotics enhanced the production of Th1 and regulatory cytokines in vitro. Oral administration of probiotics resulted in a slightly decreased ex vivo production of IL-10, TNF-α and IL-6. This indicates that probiotics have a different potential to modulate the immune response in vitro versus ex vivo.

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