Indian Council of Medical Research Looking at Probiotics as an Alternative to Antibiotics

Could probiotics - good bacteria, become an alternative to antibiotics that are fast becoming resistant?
This is what the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) wants to find out.

The Indian Council of Medical Research says, "Antibiotic resistance is a burgeoning problem in India. Due to the availability of over-the-counter antibiotics and improper and rampant use, antibiotic resistance in the Indian population has sky rocketed. Probiotics can be studied and used as alternative and/or adjunctive therapy to conventional antibiotic therapy in various infectious diseases."

Probiotics as an Alternative to Antibiotics

When it comes to role of probiotics on children, ICMT says the broad areas for research under the call for proposals includes looking at influence of probiotics on immunological response to oral vaccines, effect of probiotics on virus infections in organs other than GI tract, role of probiotics bacteria in mucosal protection against HIV in breastfeeding, examination of colonizing ability of different strains in target populations (neonates, infants, pediatric, adult and elderly population).

ICMR wants to initiate a study on the long-term colonization patterns of probiotics. Apart from looking at the immediate changes in gut flora, which may affect health and disease during that period, it is equally important to examine the colonization pattern over the longer term. Changes in gut flora over one-two years may have serious positive or negative effects, ICMR says.

As far as role of probiotics in women is concerned, ICMR has asked researchers to look at its role in restoring and maintaining uro-genital health, in reducing pre-term birth, in the field of female controlled HIV prevention and it as delivery agents for antiretroviral drugs. India recently released guidelines on the use of probiotics in the country. All strains of probiotics being used in India will now have to be deposited in an internationally recognized culture collection/repository for future reference.

In order to assure safety for humans, even for the group of bacteria that are "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS), all probiotic strains will have to be tested to assess its undesirable side-effects.

Probiotics as an Alternative to Antibiotics

Companies will also have to determine antibiotic resistance patterns of the probiotic strain and should be ascertained that it is not at a significant risk with regard to transferable antibiotic resistance.

There were no regulatory guidelines for probiotic foods in India. In the absence of any such standards, there was a great scope for spurious products with false claims being marketed.

The guidelines go on to say that under labelling requirements, the following information has to be mentioned on the label of the probiotic products - genus, species and strain in the product, the minimum viable numbers of each probiotic strain at the level at which efficacy is claimed, evidence-based health claims, suggested serving size to deliver the minimum effective quantity of the probiotic related to the health claim and proper storage conditions.

Probiotics are good bacteria which are similar to beneficial micro organisms found in the human gut. According to the committee, India is fast emerging as a potential market for probiotics in food. The normal human digestive tract contains about 400 types of probiotic bacteria that reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system. The global probiotic market generated $15.9 billion in 2008 and is expected to be worth $ 32.6 billion by 2014 with annual growth rate of 12.6% from 2009 to 2014.

On the other hand, the probiotic product industry in India was estimated to be around Rs 20.6 million with a projected annual growth rate of 22.6% until 2015.

The Times Of India
28 October 2011