Probiotic research needed to fulfill gut health potential

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Probiotics, Irritable bowel syndrome

Probiotics should be considered as living drugs rather than “simple good bacteria” in order to become effective treatment options for IBS, according to Joseph Haddad, medical director of Institut Rosell-Lallemand.

Following a recent seminar on probiotics and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), hosted by Institut Rosell in London ahead of Gastro 2009, Haddad gave NutraIngredients.com a progress report.

Delegates at the seminar, which focused on the potential of the Lactobacillus plantarum 299v​ strain, were agreed on the potential of probiotics to treat IBS, but acknowledged that more work is needed to develop effective treatment strategies.

Probiotic potential

Haddad said a lot of scientific work has been done on the therapeutic potential of some specific strains. This work, Haddad, said: “Is now starting to draw a lot of interest from the medical community, which is very promising.”

The medical attraction of adapted probiotics is that unlike traditional drugs, they may not only treat the symptoms of IBS, but also the cause.

However, the development of a consensus on treatment strategies is still some way off.

Haddad said consensus building is a very long process, beginning with initial clinical evidence that is then reviewed and discussed by the specialist community, who ask for more clinical evidence. And finally, after many years, a consensus can emerge and some common guideline scan be defined.

“Many probiotics are not even at the first stage of this process,”​ said Haddad. When it comes to IBS, he identified three areas where more work is needed.

1. All IBS mechanisms are not completely elucidated yet.

2. Not all probiotics have the same therapeutic potential so it is very difficult to determine the perfect bacteria for IBS.

3. Even though probiotics have been known and used for a very long time, a therapeutic approach with probiotics is still considered innovative in the medical community.

Recommendations

To help build a treatment consensus, Haddad said more in vivo​ clinical trials are needed in order to validate in vitro​ data. This will allow those promising strains that are most effective in alleviating abdominal pain and discomfort to be recognised as truly efficient.

As for the probiotics industry, Haddad said it needs to invest more in R&D and state-of-the-art clinical trials to find out and support the most efficient strains. He said: “Some companies are already well positioned, but overall a lot of investment is still required.

“The challenge is really to demonstrate that the industry is not dealing with ‘simple good bacteria’ but that probiotics should be considered as living drugs, backed up by strong clinical evidence.”

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