Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Professor Simon ATEGBO
The beneficial role of probiotics has been suspected for centuries. In
relation to children, this includes the studies by Tissier, a Parisian doctor
who in 1900 drew attention to the possible relationship between the presence of
bifidobacteria in the feces of a child and the first signs of severe diarrhea. A
prospective comparison of children who are breastfed and those on infant formula
during a rotavirus epidemic showed that the disease was less severe in the
children who were breastfed .The breastmilk protected against diarrhea
through a microbiota dominated by bifidobacteria, and the repression of other
anaerobic bacteria .
Numerous research papers have shown the narrow interrelationship between the
microbiota and the host. The microbiota exercise multiple functions such as
metabolic activities (including fermentation); a barrier effect against
pathogenic microorganisms; development and maturing of the immune system;
effects on the movement and absorption of the colon; which all relate to
physiological functioning. The microbiota is also protective during specific
disease conditions and is therefore a major biotope indispensable in the
maintenance of optimal digestive and immune functions. It therefore ought to be
protected against any alteration of its equilibrium and can even be positively
modulated to enhance protective effects .
The term “probiotics”, proposed by Fuller, defines nonpathogenic
microorganisms, that once ingested in adequate quantities, remain alive during
intestinal transit and settle in sufficiently to modify the intestinal flora and
have a proven beneficial effect on the health of the host . These are
bacteria or yeasts characterized by the type (Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium,
Saccharomyces) and strain. The effects of probiotics have been proven in the
treatment of severe diarrhea , the prevention of diarrhea associated with
antibiotics , colitis, or inflammation of the colon by Clostridium difficile
, food allergies, atopic or hypersensitivity dermatitis [8,9], the prevention
of necrotizing ulcerous entero-colitis , infantile colic , inflammatory
bowel disease, constipation, the treatment of Helicobacter pylori .
The effect of probiotics in these different disease conditions depends on the
strain, the dose (108 or 109 cfu) and the mixing of several strains or types.
The interpretation of the rather abundant research data on probiotics must take
into account this notion while avoiding certain extrapolations. The results of
meta-analyses are more significant. The effectiveness of probiotics, though
sometimes quite modest, must not bar the question of their safety as medicine or
food, including fermented mild products and enriched milk. The risk of bacterial
translocation (sepsis, hepatic abscess) is rare but has been described with
immuno-compromised patients. Globally, tolerance is quite satisfactory.
Probiotics has also proven to be beneficial in preterm babies, particularly
those at risk for anomalies of the intestinal flora and immune development.
Proof is growing in favor of the safety of their use with preterm babies
weighing more than 1000g [13, 14]. Lactobacillus reuteri improves gastric
emptying, and increases food tolerance in preterm babies . In this
population it has been proven henceforth that the combining of several strains
of probiotics in a preparation is more effective than the use of a single strain
of probiotics . In certain formulations, probiotics are positively
associated with prebiotics ( FOS, GOS, Inulin) , the concept known as symbiotics.