Just because it says probiotic doesn’t mean it’s good for you

Cryptosporidiosis, a leading cause of diarrhea among infants, is caused by apicomplexan parasites classified in the genus Cryptosporidium. The lack of effective drugs is motivating research to develop alternative treatments. With this aim, the impact of probiotics on the course of cryptosporidiosis was investigated.

The native intestinal microbiota of specific pathogen-free immunosuppressed mice was initially depleted with orally administered antibiotics. A commercially available probiotic product intended for human consumption was subsequently added to the drinking water. Mice were infected with Cryptosporidium parvumoocysts.

On average, mice treated with the probiotic product developed more severe infections. The probiotics significantly altered the fecal microbiota, but no direct association between ingestion of probiotic bacteria and their abundance in fecal microbiota was observed. These results suggest that probiotics indirectly altered the intestinal microenvironment or the intestinal epithelium in a way that favored proliferation of C. parvum.

Probiotic product enhances susceptibility of mice to cryptosporidiosis

Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 10.1128/AEM.01408-18

Bruno C. M. Oliveira, Giovanni Widmer


Proving the potential of probiotics in beef cattle

Caution is the word for now from an Alberta intestinal health research groupe on products claimed to have prebiotic or probiotic activity to promote health benefits for people and livestock.

cow.poop2Use of these products won’t harm cattle or people. The worst that could happen from a production standpoint is that they will increase costs with no benefit to the cattle, says Dr. Doug Inglis, a research scientist at Ag Canada’s Lethbridge Research Centre and adjunct professor with University of Calgary Veterinary Medicine.

He’s not nixing the potential merit of prebiotics and probiotics to provide health benefits. In fact, that’s the very question the research group is studying. It’s just that at this point in time there’s not enough scientific evidence to validate the general claims on most products, let alone make specific claims. That’s largely because our basic understanding of how probiotics and prebiotics impart health benefits is missing.

General claims are usually vague and oftentimes misleading statements about supporting gastrointestinal health. Given that intestinal health has a systemic effect on overall health, some companies extend claims to boosting the immune system, relieving stress and depression, having anti-inflammatory properties, improving glucose tolerance and reducing upper-respiratory tract infections. Products for livestock may claim that they enhance the immune system, improve digestive health, maintain or improve intestinal integrity and barrier function, increase feed efficiency and promote growth.

What you want to see on a product are specific claims — what to expect and why — for instance, the reduction in the number of specific pathogens (salmonella, typhimurium and/or E. coli O157:H7) as a result of having to compete against probiotic bacteria, Inglis explains.

Other modes of action commonly believed but not fully supported by science include directly fighting off harmful bacteria, improving the barrier function of the intestinal wall to bar harmful bacteria, stimulating immune function, reducing inflammation, and producing a growth substance.

 “Another concern is that almost all of the science on prebiotics and probiotics has been done in monogastrics so we are really uncertain if there is a health benefit to ruminants,” he adds. Researchers have only touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding the activity of prebiotics and probiotics in the complex, diverse ruminant digestive system.


Probiotic to reduce E. coli in beef

The probiotic strain Lactobacillus acidophilus BT-1386, available exclusively from Lallemand Animal Nutrition, was added to the 2015 pre-harvest production best practice (PBP) document released by the Beef Industry Food Safety Council (BIFSCo).

Lallemand logoThis lactic acid bacteria strain was noted on this PBP document based on the peer-reviewed literature available to support its effectiveness against E. coli O157:H7. Two Micro-Cell products from Lallemand Animal Nutrition contain this proprietary strain ─ Micro-Cell LA and Micro-Cell GOLD.