Probiotics can be worse than useless, Israeli scientists find

probiotics, antibiotics, clinical trial, bacteria  image: Shutterstock

Researchers at the Weizmann institute suggest that probiotics should not be universally given as a ‘one size fits all’ supplement.

Studies by scientists at Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot suggest that probiotics may be less than helpful in promoting the health of the human microbiome. Probiotics are often taken to offset the effects of antibiotics, which can kill off good bacteria as well as bad ones.

In two back-to-back reports published in scientific journal Cell, researchers at the Weizmann Institute say that a probiotic preparation of 11 strains of the most widely used probiotic families may sometimes be less than beneficial. The study that produced these papers was headed by research teams from the labs of Prof. Eran Elinav of the Immunology Department and Prof. Eran Segal of the Computer Science and Applied Mathematics Department, in collaboration with Prof. Zamir Halpern, Director of the Gastroenterology Division at the Tel Aviv Medical Center. Dr. Niv Zmora, Jotham Suez, Gili Zilberman-Schapira, and Uria Mor from Elinav’s lab led the two projects, in collaboration with other members of the Elinav and Segal lab, as well as with additional scientists and clinicians from Weizmann and elsewhere.

“Our results suggest that probiotics should not be universally given to the public as a ‘one size fits all’ supplement,” says Elinav. “Instead, they could be tailored to each individual and their particular needs. Our findings even suggest how such personalization might be carried out.” Segal continues: “These results add to our previous ones on diet that had revealed a similar individual response to foods, and which have highlighted the role of the gut microbiome in driving very specific clinical differences between people.”

In patients using probiotics to counter adverse effect of antibiotics, it was found that the probiotics’ gut colonization prevented the both the host gut’s gene expression and their microbiome from returning to their normal pre-antibiotic configurations for months afterward. In contrast, in patients given an autologous fecal microbiome transplant (aFMT), made up of their own bacteria that had been collected before giving them the antibiotic, the native gut microbiome recolonized and the gut gene expression prole returned to normal within days.

“These results,” says Elinav, “reveal a new and potentially alarming adverse side effect of probiotic use with antibiotics that might even bring long-term consequences. In contrast, personalized treatment - replenishing the gut with one’s own microbes - was associated with a full reversal of the drugs’ effects.” Since probiotics are among the world’s most traded over-the-counter supplements, these results may have immediate, broad implications. “Contrary to the current dogma that probiotics are harmless and benefit everyone,” says Segal, “we suggest that probiotics preparations should be tailored to individuals, or that such treatments such as autologous FMT may be indicated in some cases.”

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on September 6, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

probiotics, antibiotics, clinical trial, bacteria  image: Shutterstock
probiotics, antibiotics, clinical trial, bacteria image: Shutterstock
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