Microbiota and Food Allergy

Shang An Shu, Agatha W.T. Yuen, Elena Woo, Ka Hou Chu, Hoi Shan Kwan, Guo Xiang Yang, Yao Yang, Patrick S Leung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Emerging evidence suggests that the increasing prevalence of food allergies is associated with compositional and functional changes in our gut microbiota. Microbiota-host interactions play a key role in regulating the immune system. Development of a healthy gut microbiota and immune system occurs early in life and is largely shaped by exposure to maternal microbes through vaginal/natural delivery and breast milk, whereas use of antibiotics can disrupt gut homeostasis and significantly raise the risk of allergic diseases. Thus, changes in the quantity or diversity of gut microbes affect oral toleranace through interations of microbial molecules with pattern recognition receptors on immune cells and confer susceptibility to food allergies. On the other hand, short chain fatty acids which are fermentation end products of insoluble fibers by intestinal micoorganisms have been shown to confer protective effects on food allergy. As a preventive and therapeutic treatment for food allergies, probiotics have gained widespread attention in recent years. Reintroducing certain commensal microbes, such as Clostridia, both in animal models and clinical trials led to the prevention or resolution of allergic symptoms. This review highlights recent progress in our understanding of the gut microbiota’s role in food allergy. However, mechanistic details underlying the anti-allergic effects of probiotics and the interaction between the gut microbiota and the immune system remain circumstantial and are not fully understood. Future studies should address possible factors and underlying mechanisms for microbiota-host interactions and gut immunity, as well as the efficacy, safety, and appropriate use of probiotics in establishing a standard treatment regimen for food allergies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalClinical Reviews in Allergy and Immunology
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018


  • Food antigens
  • Hygiene hypothesis
  • Intestinal microbiota
  • Microbe-host interactions
  • Probiotics
  • Short-chain fatty acids
  • Tolerance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy


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