Prebiotic combination may boost flu vaccine efficacy: Mouse data

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / JONGHO SHIN
© Getty Images / JONGHO SHIN
A combination of human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), prebiotic short-chain galactooligosaccharides (scGOS) and long-chain fructooligosaccharides (lcFOS) may enhance the immune response to the flu vaccine, says a new study.

Female mice fed a diet supplemented with the prebiotics had a better immune response to a flu vaccine than mice not receiving the supplements, according to findings published in the Journal of Nutrition​.

“This study addressed the link between changing gut microbial community structure and metabolites, thereby improving vaccine-specific immune responses,”​ wrote researchers from Utrecht University (The Netherlands), Rush University Medical Center (Chicago, USA), Danone Nutricia Research (The Netherlands), and the University of Illinois at Chicago (USA).

“This study provides a novel strategy for the optimization of vaccine efficacy. In addition, the observed beneficial effects of [these prebiotics] may improve the immune system by optimizing gut microbiota composition and metabolic function.”


Prebiotics are defined as "non-digestible substances that provide a beneficial physiological effect on the host by selectively stimulating the favorable growth or activity of a limited number of indigenous bacteria".

The prebiotic potential of fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) and galactooligosaccharides (GOS) have been reported many times in the literature.

Human milk oligosaccharides, or HMOs, form a significant portion of human breast milk (about 12%) but they are not easily digested. Experts postulate that their purpose is to jump-start the infant’s microbiome (ie. they’re prebiotics).

The majority of the focus to-date has been on 2´-fucosyllactose (2’-FL) because it’s the most abundant HMO in human milk, but lacto-N-neotetraose (LNnT) is also commercially available.

Players actively investigating HMOs include DuPont, Friesland Campina, Glycom A/S, Evolve Bioscience, Abbott, Danone, and Nestlé.

Vaccination © Getty Images Nastco
“The vaccination model used in the current study is well suited to establish the capacity of the immune system to respond to a given antigen and allowed us to study immunomodulation by nutritional intervention with [the prebiotic combination], providing a robust understanding of nutritional interventions that can be translated easily for clinical trials,” stated the researchers. Image © Getty Images / Nastco

Study details

The new study used 2’-FL combined with scGOS and lcFOS to replace 2.2% (wt/wt) of carbohydrates in the standard mouse diet. Mice were randomly assigned to receive a standard diet or the prebiotic supplemented diet for 45 days. After 14 days of intervention, the mice were given a flu vaccine, and they received a booster vaccination at day 21.

Results showed that, compared to mice consuming the control diet, mice fed the prebiotic diet had significantly higher immune responses, including 3.2-fold and 1.2-fold increases in IgG1 and IgG2a, respectively. The prebiotic-fed mice also had statistically significant higher percentages of activated immune cells, including B cells, regulatory T cells, and T-helper 1 cells, said the researchers.

“We demonstrate that a dietary intervention with a combination of 2′FL and scGOS/lcFOS, more effectively enhances mucosal immune responsiveness to influenza vaccination,” ​wrote the researchers. “Specifically, we demonstrate that a GF2F diet–induced improvement in vaccine responses is modulated via intestinal mucosal sites by inducing profound changes within immune cells, microbial composition, and metabolites. This reveals a key role for microbiota in promoting immunity to vaccinations.

“Our findings may provide for a novel and effective strategy to improve the vaccine responsiveness by targeting the mucosal immune system.”

Source: Journal of Nutrition
Volume 149, Number 5, Pages 856–869, doi: 10.1093/jn/nxz006
“The Combination of 2′-Fucosyllactose with Short-Chain Galacto-Oligosaccharides and Long-Chain Fructo-Oligosaccharides that Enhance Influenza Vaccine Responses Is Associated with Mucosal Immune Regulation in Mice”
Authors: L. Xiao et al. 

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