Probiotics refer to live microorganisms residing within the human body and playing a crucial role when it comes to intestinal functions. The microorganisms do this by assisting in the creation of a healthy bacterial balance in the gut of the host. An average human body already contains approximately 1.5 kilograms worth of probiotic bacteria. But these microorganisms are also present in fermented food products like miso, kimchi, certain kinds of cheese and yogurt.
In recent times, there has been a lot of hype about the possible health benefits probiotics can provide, For example, helping digestion, reducing blood pressure, enhancing cognitive function and curing the syndrome of irritable bowel.
However, the question lies in whether probiotics are solely beneficial, with no bad sides. With an increasing number of people consuming them, new research has cautioned that probiotics work differently for different people and certain probiotic strains may also be harmful.
A recent study has offered a critical view at therapeutic benefits when it comes to probiotics. Scientists at the Medicine University School of Washington at St. Louis, have studied behavior of one particular Escherichia coli strain in the mice intestines.
This research was led by Gautam Dantas, Ph.D. He is a molecular biology, biomedical engineering, immunology and pathology professor at the same university. The research team selected the E. coli probiotic Nissle 1917 as it is believed to have anti-diarrheal characteristics.
The team wanted to observe the behavior of the bacterium in digestive tracts of mice. Four different types of rodents, each having a different kind of microbiology in its gut, were used for the study.
Dantas and his team made the mice consume different diets and the probiotic. After five weeks, an analysis done on the microbiomes of the rodents found the bacterium to have changed and developed new features.
In some particular conditions, the host was even harmed by the bacterium as the latter ate the protective intestinal layer of the host. Damage of this particular layer has previously been linked to the syndrome of irritable bowels.