A Microbial-Based Approach to Mental Health: The Potential of Probiotics in the Treatment of Depression

Dinyadarshini Johnson, Vengadesh Letchumanan, Chern Choong Thum, Sivakumar Thurairajasingam, Learn Han Lee

Research output: Journal PublicationReview articlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Probiotics are currently the subject of intensive research pursuits and also represent a multi-billion-dollar global industry given their vast potential to improve human health. In addition, mental health represents a key domain of healthcare, which currently has limited, adverse-effect prone treatment options, and probiotics may hold the potential to be a novel, customizable treatment for depression. Clinical depression is a common, potentially debilitating condition that may be amenable to a precision psychiatry-based approach utilizing probiotics. Although our understanding has not yet reached a sufficient level, this could be a therapeutic approach that can be tailored for specific individuals with their own unique set of characteristics and health issues. Scientifically, the use of probiotics as a treatment for depression has a valid basis rooted in the microbiota-gut-brain axis (MGBA) mechanisms, which play a role in the pathophysiology of depression. In theory, probiotics appear to be ideal as adjunct therapeutics for major depressive disorder (MDD) and as stand-alone therapeutics for mild MDD and may potentially revolutionize the treatment of depressive disorders. Although there is a wide range of probiotics and an almost limitless range of therapeutic combinations, this review aims to narrow the focus to the most widely commercialized and studied strains, namely Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, and to bring together the arguments for their usage in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD). Clinicians, scientists, and industrialists are critical stakeholders in exploring this groundbreaking concept.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1382
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • depression
  • gut microbes
  • major depressive disorder
  • precision
  • probiotics
  • psychiatry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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