There are millions of microorganisms in the food that we regularly ingest. These are the friendly bacteria called probiotics that live happily in our intestines and are also present in probiotic foods. They are considered to be very healthy and aid in the process of digestion.
Good bacteria or probiotics are generally present in food like yogurt, dietary supplements, and products that aren’t used orally, such as skin creams.
But are these so called good bacteria really good?
It is believed in general consensus that probiotics are useful in maintaining a health gut. However, there are also research findings that state otherwise. According to these studies, microorganisms can evolve in the gut and turn things sour.
The fact that what we consider good bacteria in probiotic food can evolve in the body and have the potential to become harmful, calls for caution in the emerging field of treatment.
Researchers from the University of Washington, Missouri, have shown how one strain of bacteria sold in Europe in an anti-diarrhoea probiotic can begin to attack the protective coating of the intestine.
A bacterial strain was seen in a petri dish containing agar jelly for bacterial culture in a microbiological laboratory in Berlin March 1, 2008. The strain called MRSA is a drug-resistant “superbug”, which can cause deadly infections. (REUTERS)
It can increase the risk of conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Some probiotics have been linked to serious infections in some people.
The researchers conducted trials on mice where they showed that high fat and sugar diets, the use of antibiotics and the other bacteria in the gut all boosted this unpredictable probiotic evolution.
Using this, a new non-evolving probiotic was engineered which could help treat patients with an inborn error of metabolism that results in decreased metabolism of the amino acid phenylalanine called phenylketonuria , by breaking down chemicals in diet that they cannot digest naturally.
All of this goes to show that the same principles can be used to design safer probiotics, but equally that future treatments need larger widespread testing.