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Prebiotics, probiotics, and synbiotics (Proceedings)


Nomenclature surrounding nutritional supplements can be confusing. The most commonly used live organism supplements are probiotics.

Nomenclature surrounding nutritional supplements can be confusing. The most commonly used live organism supplements are probiotics. Probiotics have been defined as live microorganisms that when administered in adequate amounts confer a health effect on the host.1 It is theorized that probiotics may impart their beneficial health effects either by increasing the resistance to colonization of mucosal surfaces by pathogenic bacteria (colonization resistance)2 or by exerting an effect on gut associated lymphoid tissue (GALT)* resulting in the production of immunomodulating substances.3,4

Probiotics have been commonly used to modulate the course of a variety of infectious diseases in human medicine.5 Moreover, immune-modulating properties of some specific strains of probiotics have also been well documented in humans and rodents (Isolauri et al. 2001; Cebra 1999). In contrast, few studies have been performed in veterinary medicine, with the majority of studies being in large animals where probiotics were used to attempt to alter the shedding of fecal pathogens6 or to improve production parameters such as weight gain, feed conversion rate and reduced mortality.

Most recently, several commercial probiotics have been marketed for the small animal population. The various products have different compositions and therefore, as with all products, have distinct advantages and disadvantages associated with them.

In addition, some of these products have the addition of a prebiotic: a non-digestible food ingredient that aids in the growth of supplemented bacteria or activity of resident bacteria. The most commonly used are inulin, fructo-oligosaccharides, lactulose, and galacto-oligosaccharides. Each prebiotic is most beneficial to only a single type of probiotic. If probiotics and prebiotics are combined in a single product it is defined as a symbiotic: not to be confused with the diagnostic assay company!

Potential uses by system of probiotics: (and the rationale behind them)


Abx responsive diarrhea/ bacterial overgrowth

Protection against enteric infections



1. Protection against infection: mucosal surfaces




2. Anti-inflammatory



Schrezenmeir J, de Vrese M: Probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics—approaching a definition. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 73: 361S, 2001.

Sanders ME: Probiotics: considerations for human health. Nutr Rev. 61: 91-99,2003.

Isolauri E, Sutas Y, Kankaanpaa P, Arvilommi H, Salminen S: Probiotics: effects on immunity. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 73: 444S, 2001.

Macpherson AJ, Uhr T: Induction of protective IgA by intestinal dendritic cells carrying commensal bacteria. Science 303: 1662-1665, 2004.

Isolauri E: Probiotics in human disease American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 73: 1142S-1146S, 2001.

Kim LM, Morley PS, Traub-Dargatz JL, Salman MD, Gentry-Weeks C: Factors associated with Salmonella shedding among equine colic patients at a veterinary teaching hospital. J Am Vet Med Assoc 218: 740-748, 2001.

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