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Effects of Prebiotics on Immunity


Immature immunity makes an infant vulnerable to infections.1 Prebiotic supplementation enhances the development of the infant immune system.2,3 This infographic answers how prebiotic supplementation enhances the infant's immunity.

Mechanism of Action of Prebiotics2

Effects of Prebiotics on Immunity figure 1

Figure 1 Mechanism of Action of Prebiotics.

  • A. Direct action: Neutralize and prevent pathogens adhesion, thus, preventing infection acting as decoy receptors.
  • B-M: Indirect actions
  • B-D. Promote the growth of commensal flora, outcompeting pathogens.
  • C. Enhance protein transcription for barrier integrity.
  • E. Enhanced SCFAs lowers gut pH, favoring the growth of beneficial bacteria.
  • F. SCFAs promote Crypt, villi development – Proper nutrients absorption.
  • G. SCFAs act as an energy source for enterocytes that develop epithelium.
  • H, I. Gut barrier integrity maintenance – Prevents pathogen translocation through the leaky gut barrier.
  • J, K, L, & M: Overall gut immunity improvement through Th1 and Treg activation and IgA secretion.

Prebiotics and Immunity3

Effects of Prebiotics on Immunity figure 2

Figure 2 Prebiotics and Immunity.

IgA Secretory Action3,4: Prebiotics increase IgA production in GALT via Peyer's patches.

Effects of Prebiotics on Immunity figure 3

Figure 3 IgA Secretory Action.

Clinical Benefits of Prebiotics (GOS and FOS) in Pediatric Gastrointestinal Disorders5

Effects of Prebiotics on Immunity figure 4

Figure 4 Clinical Benefits of Prebiotics (GOS and FOS).

Key Takeaways

  • Prebiotics can boost the development of an infant's immunity through gut microbiota modulation.1,5,8
  • GOS and FOS prebiotic supplementation can prevent infections in infants to enhance overall health.6,9


FOS: Fructooligosaccharide; GOS: Galactooligosaccharide; IgA: Immunoglobulin A; SCFAs: Short-chain fatty acids; Th1: T helper cell type 1; Treg: Regulatory T cells.


  1.  Donovan SM, Comstock SS. Human milk oligosaccharides influence neonatal mucosal and systemic immunity. Ann NutrMetab. 69;2016 (Supple. 2):41- 51.
  2. McKeen S, Young W, Mullaney J, Fraser K, McNabb WC, Roy NC. Infant complementary feeding of prebiotics for the microbiome and immunity. Nutrients. 2019 Feb;11 (2) : 364.
  3. Schley PD, Field CJ. The immune-enhancing effects of dietary fibres and prebiotics. BrJNutr. 2002 May;87(S2):S221- 30.
  4. Raes M, Scholtens PA, Alliet P, Hensen K, Jongen H, Boehm G, Vandenplas Y, Rummens JL. Exploration of basal immune parameters in healthy infants receiving an infant milk formula supplemented with prebiotics. Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2010 Mar;21( 2p2): e377- 85.
  5. Vandenplas Y, Hauser B, Salvatore S. Functional gastrointestinal disorders in infancy: impact on the health of the infant and family. PediatrGastroenterolHepatolNutr. 2019 May 1;22 (3) : 207- 16.
  6. Indrio F, Riezzo G, Raimondi F, Bisceglia M, Cavallo L, Francavilla R. Effects of probiotic and prebiotic on gastrointestinal motility in newborns. J Physiol Pharmacol. 2009 Dec 60;1(Suppl 6) : 27- 31.
  7. Indrio F, Riezzo G, Raimondi F, Francavilla R, Montagna O, Valenzano ML, Cavallo L, Boehm G. Prebiotics improve gastric motility and gastric electrical activity in preterm newborns. J PediatrGastroenterol Nutr. 2009 Aug 1; 49 (2) : 258- 61.
  8. Vandenplas Y, Zakharova I, Dmitrieva Y. Oligosaccharides in infant formula: more evidence to validate the role of prebiotics. Br J Nutr. 2015 May;113 (9) :1339- 44.
  9. Savino F, Palumeri E, Castagno E, Cresi F, Dalmasso P, Cavallo F, Oggero R. Reduction of crying episodes owing to infantile colic: a randomized controlled study on the efficacy of a new infant formula. EurJClinNutr. 2006 Nov;60(11): 1304- 10.