The World Health Organization defines probiotics as “live micro-organisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health beneﬁt on the host”.
Probiotics or good bacteria are microscopic bacteria that we eat specifically for health benefits. To put this into context, the human body is believed to carry around 100 trillion microorganisms in the intestines; ten times more than the total number of human cells. It is well known through various scientific research that when the balance between good and bad bacteria is disturbed, significant health problems can occur.
Antibiotics (the opposite of probiotics) are the obvious example, used to fight bacterial infections. They kill or inhibit the growth of all bacteria, not just the harmful types. When you ingest antibiotics, it is like a bomb going off! It kills bacteria. It does not distinguish between good and bad bacteria. We know by far majority of the bacteria that live in and on us are good and we need them to fight diseases and to survive.
Whilst antibiotics are essential for the treatment of various illnesses but the world is currently facing a huge problem due to the overuse of it.
The bacteria are constantly evolving and now they have started to resist antibiotics. Superbugs are viral infections caused by bacteria that are resistant to common antibiotics. Understanding the gravity behind having one of these infections can help you appreciate the need to prevent exposure and infection.
The prediction is dire and some predict that there will be millions of deaths in the future unless something is done about the use of antibiotics.
This is one the reason the world has started to look at probiotics as one of the tools to maintain good health and fight illnesses.
Here is an example of headlines around the world.
Antibiotic-resistant superbugs near a 'tipping point'
Scientists are warning New Zealand is near a tipping point for the spread of an antibiotic-resistant superbug with the potential to infect thousands of hospital patients. A New Zealand Medical Journal article warns a group of bacteria known as Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CPE) pose an enormous risk to people in intensive care or having bone marrow or lung or liver transplants.
One of the authors, Auckland microbiologist Joshua Freeman, told Morning Report health officials must urgently devise a national response plan. Listen to Dr Joshua Freeman
28 April 2017- Radio interview
Source: Radio New Zealand
It's difficult to predict the growing problem of antibiotics but this issue has grabbed the attention of governments and scientific community. Maybe new antibiotics may be developed or something new. One of the options is more research and development of probiotics for the treatment of conditions and management of good health.
At the time of writing this article, we looked for some of the researches that are worth sharing that seem to indicate that probiotics may be a good option.
In January 2018, a paper published in Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology titled "Helicobacter pylori treatment: antibiotics or probiotics" commented:
"Treatment of Helicobacter pylori infection is important for the management of gastrointestinal disorders such as peptic ulcer and gastric cancer. Due to the increase in the prevalence of H. pylori resistance to antibiotics, triple therapy with clarithromycin is no longer the best treatment for H. pylori, especially in some areas where the local resistance to this antibiotic is higher than 20%. Alternative treatments have been proposed for the eradication of H. pylori. Some of them including novel antibiotics or classical ones in different combinations; these treatments are being used in the regular clinical practice as novel and more effective treatments. Others therapies are using probiotics associated to antibiotics to treat this infection."
Another study in June 2018 titled " Synergistic or Antagonistic Effects of Probiotics and Antibiotics- Alone or in Combination- on Antimicrobial-Resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa Isolated from Burn Wounds". The background of this study stated that "Bacterial burn infections are one of the serious infections and since their treatment with antibiotics is very difficult, infection control in such wounds is very important. Therefore, methods should be sought to enhance the effects of antibiotics and also reduce the resistance to them. It seems that probiotics have antimicrobial features and are effective in wound healing."
The Conclusion of this study stated "The current study explained that probiotics had a useful potential inhibitory effect on the growth of the pathogens. The study showed that in most cases, inhibitory zones of probiotics were greater than those of antibiotics as well as combination of antibiotic + probiotic. But, there was an exception in tetracycline, which had synergistic effect with probiotics. Conversely, in the cases of imipenem and chloramphenicol, addition of probiotics had antagonistic effects. Further studies are needed to describe different results. Therefore, it seems that the type of antibiotics and probiotics are important to create the synergistic or antagonistic effects."
The above are just two examples of that suggests that probiotics may have a big part to play, It is not about just antibiotics or probiotics. Both could work together well.
Microbiome - Even More Interesting Development
Sept 2018: Researchers have discovered a technology that rapidly assesses potentially lifesaving antibiotics by using bacteria in saliva from an East Siberian brown bear.
This technology involves placing a bacterium from a wild animal’s mouth—or other complex source of microbes with potential antibiotic properties—in an oil droplet to see if it inhibits harmful bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus, according to a study published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Researchers say that Microbes in wild animals or other exotic sources are an unexplored area for antibiotics. The microbiota of wild animals may help protect them from the aggressive microbes that surround them. This new technology allows various microbial species to be tested individually, is a powerful tool for discovering antibiotics and exploring external influences on a microbiome, the study says.