Single or multi-strain probiotics: Where is the industry going?

By Tim Cutcliffe

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock

Related tags Gut flora

The question of whether a single probiotic strain is more efficacious than a mixture of strains continues to be a subject of intense debate, says one expert.

As part of an expert panel at the recent European Microbiome Conference, Professor Denise Kelly provided some insights. Kelly is a specialist in research on the human microbiome and a Venture Partner with Seventure, a private equity company specialising in investment opportunities in the field of the microbiome.   

A key benefit of using a single strain product makes it easier to understand the mechanism of action, even if the effect of it was pleiotropic, suggested Kelly.

Currently the trend appears to be more towards the complex mixtures of strains, although the importance of notable species should not be ignored, she argued.

“I don't believe that single species if they are keystone species won't have an impact, I think they will.

“The reason why there has been a move to complex mixtures is basically there's a real belief in the ecological approach to controlling an ecosystem,” ​Kelly continued.

“Dysbiosis is a term no one likes, but if you have not got a healthy gut then the idea is that the only way to support a very diseased unhealthy gut is to bring in a nice healthy consortia.

“A bug doesn't live in isolation and the real functionality comes from the ability to interact not only with its neighbour but also with the host. If you look at the metabolome of a consortium, it's completely different from bugs acting in isolation.

“There's some phenomenal companies who are working at platform level and they look at cross talk and cross feed between bugs.

“So I think the consortia/ ecological approach will work. The issue is which consortia will work.”

Kelly nevertheless believes that based on evidence from recent meta-analyses, the efficacy of two or three single strains look very promising.

Independent of whether single or multi-strain solutions are pursued, hard science is critical argues Kelly, concluding that “The opportunities in the microbiome field are really massive out there.”

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