Probiotics at War Against Viruses: What Is Missing From the Picture?

Santosh Kumar Tiwari, Leon M.T. Dicks, Igor V. Popov, Alena Karaseva, Alexey M. Ermakov, Alexander Suvorov, John R. Tagg, Richard Weeks, Michael L. Chikindas

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Our world is now facing a multitude of novel infectious diseases. Bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics, albeit with increasing difficulty as many of the more common causes of infection have now developed broad spectrum antimicrobial resistance. However, there is now an even greater challenge from both old and new viruses capable of causing respiratory, enteric, and urogenital infections. Reports of viruses resistant to frontline therapeutic drugs are steadily increasing and there is an urgent need to develop novel antiviral agents. Although this all makes sense, it seems rather strange that relatively little attention has been given to the antiviral capabilities of probiotics. Over the years, beneficial strains of lactic acid bacteria (LAB) have been successfully used to treat gastrointestinal, oral, and vaginal infections, and some can also effect a reduction in serum cholesterol levels. Some probiotics prevent gastrointestinal dysbiosis and, by doing so, reduce the risk of developing secondary infections. Other probiotics exhibit anti-tumor and immunomodulating properties, and in some studies, antiviral activities have been reported for probiotic bacteria and/or their metabolites. Unfortunately, the mechanistic basis of the observed beneficial effects of probiotics in countering viral infections is sometimes unclear. Interestingly, in COVID-19 patients, a clear decrease has been observed in cell numbers of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium spp., both of which are common sources of intestinal probiotics. The present review, specifically motivated by the need to implement effective new counters to SARS-CoV-2, focusses attention on viruses capable of co-infecting humans and other animals and specifically explores the potential of probiotic bacteria and their metabolites to intervene with the process of virus infection. The goal is to help to provide a more informed background for the planning of future probiotic-based antiviral research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1877
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
StatePublished - Aug 20 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


  • COVID-19
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • antiviral
  • bacteriocins
  • gut microbiota
  • immunity
  • probiotics
  • viruses


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