Prebiotic May Help Patients With Intestinal Failure Grow New and Better Gut

Fructooligosaccharides (FOS)

Adding the right prebiotic to the diets of pediatric patients with intestinal failure could replace intravenous feeding, says a new University of Illinois study.

“When we fed the carbohydrate fructooligosacharide (FOS) as a prebiotic, the gut grew and increased in function,” said Kelly A. Tappenden, a U of I professor of nutrition and gastrointestinal physiology. “The study showed that using the correct pre- and probiotic in combination could enhance these results even more.”

When FOS enters the intestines, bacteria convert it into butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that increases the size of the gut and its ability to digest and absorb nutrients, she said.

But today’s IV solutions don’t contain butyrate and adding it would entail drug development trials and regulatory red tape. She wanted to see if adding this carbohydrate to the diet while continuing to provide most nutrients intravenously would cause the gut to start producing butyrate on its own. It worked.

According to Tappenden, at least 10,000 U.S. patients are totally reliant on intravenous feeding because their intestines have been surgically shortened.

Many of these patients are premature infants who develop necrotizing enterocolitis, a kind of gangrene of the intestine. In the U.S., one in eight infants is a preemie, and removing necrotized, or dead, intestine is the most common surgical emergency in these babies.

“Surgery saves their lives, but with so much intestine removed, they’re unable to digest or absorb nutrients. These babies are also at risk for long-term complications, such as bone demineralization and liver failure. Our goal is to take kids who’ve had this resection and cause their gut to grow and adapt,” she said.

She tested her hypothesis about butyrate using newborn piglets, an excellent model for the human infant in metabolism and physiology. Piglets with intestinal failure were assigned to one of four groups: a control group; a group whose diet contained FOS, a carbohydrate given as a prebiotic to stimulate the production of butyrate by beneficial bacteria; a probiotic, or actual live bacteria; and a combination of pre- and probiotics.

“We believed that bacteria in the gut would use the prebiotic to make butyrate and support intestinal growth. But we thought that might only happen in the group that received both pre- and probiotics because we didn’t know if the newborn gut would have enough bacteria to make this important short-chain fatty acid.”

Actually, the neonatal piglets did have enough bacteria in their guts, and the prebiotic alone was effective in increasing intestinal function and structure, she said.

“In fact, the probiotic that we used in one of the groups eliminated the beneficial effect of the prebiotic. That shows us that we need to be exceptionally careful in selecting the probiotic we use, matching it to the specific disease,” she noted. Many consumers believe all probiotics are equal, but the effect of specific bacterial strains is different, she said.

“At this point, we can only recommend consumption of the FOS prebiotic alone,” she added.



Barnes JL, Hartmann B, Holst JJ, Tappenden KA. Intestinal adaptation is stimulated by partial enteral nutrition supplemented with the prebiotic short-chain fructooligosaccharide in a neonatal intestinal failure piglet model. JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr 2012; 36 (5):  524-37.

How Probiotic Bacteria Protect Against Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

A glimpse through the laser microscope – green indicates the presence of inflammatory messenger substances (chemokines) in the bowel tissue. Picture: TUM

Some lactic acid bacteria can alleviate inflammation and therefore prevent intestinal disorders. Scientists have now decoded the biochemical mechanism that lies behind the protective effect of the bacteria. In experiments with mice, the researchers succeeded in demonstrating that lactocepin – an enzyme produced by certain lactic acid bacteria – selectively degrades inflammatory mediators in diseased tissue. This new evidence might lead to new approaches for the treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases.

Yoghurt has been valued for centuries for its health-promoting effects. These effects are thought to be mediated by the lactic acid bacteria typically contained in yoghurt. Evidence from recent scientific studies show that some bacterial strains actually have a probiotic effect and can thus prevent disease. A team of biologists and nutrition scientists working with Prof. Dirk Haller from the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) has now discovered the mechanisms at work behind this protective effect (Cell Host & Microbe).

In experiments with mice, the scientists observed that lactocepin – an enzyme produced from the lactic acid bacterium Lactobacillus paracasei – can selectively interrupt inflammatory processes. As the scientists observed, lactocepin degrades messengers from the immune system, known as chemokines, in the diseased tissue. As a part of the “normal” immune response, chemokines are needed to guide defense cells to the source of the infection. In chronic intestinal disorders like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, the otherwise highly effective defense mechanism against infectious agents is malfunctioning. Chemokines such as “IP-10” then contribute to the tissue damage due to chronic inflammatory processes,  preventing the tissue from healing.

“Lactocepin is a familiar element in food technology research,” says Prof. Dirk Haller, who holds the Chair for Biofunctionality of Food at the TUM. “What is surprising, however, is its biomedical effect, namely the force with which the enzyme attacks and degrades very specific inflammatory mediators.” Haller is certain that, based on this mechanism, it will be possible to develop new approaches to the targeted prevention and treatment of chronic bowel diseases as well as skin disorders: “The anti-inflammatory effect of lactocepin is limited to specific areas and up to now it has no known side effects.”

The scientist therefore plans to carry out clinical studies in order to test the possible pharmaceutical application of the enzyme. Questions also remain to be answered in relation to the “production” of lactocepin by lactic acid bacteria. Some bacterial strains, such as Lactobacillus paracasei, produce highly potent lactocepins; however, the effectiveness of other microorganisms has not yet been proven. Dirk Haller therefore warns against false promises: “Not every product labeled as ‘probiotic’ actually earns this name.”

von Schillde MA, Hörmannsperger G, Weiher M, Alpert CA, Hahne H, Bäuerl C, van Huynegem K, Steidler L, Hrncir T, Pérez-Martínez G, Kuster B, Haller D. Lactocepin Secreted By Lactobacillus Exerts Anti-Inflammatory Effects By Selectively Degrading Proinflammatory Chemokines. Cell Host & Microbe 2012; 11 (4): 387–396.


Probiotics: Their Potential To Impact Human Health

Controlled human studies have revealed a diverse range of health benefits from consumption of probiotics, due largely to their impact on immune function or on microbes colonizing the body. 

Probiotics are live microorganisms that when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host. Probiotics have been studied for both human and animal applications, and research on this topic has accelerated in recent years.  The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) has released a new video based on its Issue Paper, Probiotics: Their Potential to Impact Human Health, as a contribution to scientific communication on this important topic.

Topics covered in this video and paper include:
· The characteristics of probiotics
· What is known about the microbes that colonize humans
· The impacts of probiotics on human health
· Future research and policy

The public and policymakers alike have been inundated with information about probiotics, and with a variety of media outlets and corporate advertisers spreading information, it is more important than ever that the scientific sector has a clear voice.  This CAST video and Issue paper deal with these issues, and as Task Force Chair Dr. Mary Ellen Sanders stated, “To the uninitiated, the list of benefits from probiotics seems too diverse to be possible. But once it is understood that probiotics can impact any colonized regions of the body and that colonizing bacteria have the potential to influence the body locally and systemically, the scope of benefits can be appreciated.”


Designer Probiotics Could Reduce Obesity

Specially designed probiotics can modulate the physiology of host fat cells say scientists writing in Microbiology. The findings could lead to specialised probiotics that have a role in the prevention or treatment of conditions such as obesity.

Scientists from the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre (APC), Cork, University College Cork and Teagasc, in Ireland engineered a strain of Lactobacillus to produce a version of a molecule called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). When this engineered bacterial strain was fed to mice, the researchers found that the composition of the mice’s fat tissue was significantly altered, demonstrating that ingesting live bacteria can influence metabolism at remote sites in the body.

CLA is a fatty acid that is produced in different versions by different bacteria. One type, called t10, c12 CLA, has been shown to be associated with decreased body fat in humans and other animals. t10, c12 CLA also has the ability to inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells and induce their death. However, this type of CLA is only produced by certain types of bacteria including Propionibacterium acnes – a skin bacterium that can cause acne.

In this study, an enzyme-encoding gene from P. acnes was transferred to the Lactobacillus strain allowing it to produce t10, c12 CLA. Lactobacillus strains are common inhabitants of the normal gut flora and are often found in probiotic products. The researchers found that the level of t10, c12 CLA in the mice’s fat tissue quadrupled when they were fed this recombinant probiotic. Thus, this study demonstrates that gut microbes have an impact on host metabolism, and in particular fat composition.

Dr Catherine Stanton, from Teagasc who led the study explained the significance of the results. “CLA has already been shown to alleviate non-alcoholic fatty liver disease that often accompanies obesity. Therefore, increasing levels of CLA in the liver by ingestion of a probiotic strain is of therapeutic relevance,” she said. “Furthermore, fat is not an inert layer around our bodies, it is active and proinflammatory and is a risk factor for many diseases, including cancers. The work shows that there is potential to influence this through diet-microbe-host interactions in the gut.”

The same group of researchers previously found that microbially produced CLA was able to reduce the viability of colon cancer cells by 92%. “It is possible that a CLA-producing probiotic may also be able to keep colon cancer cells in check. All our findings to date demonstrate that the metabolism of gut bacteria can modulate host cell activity in ways that are beneficial to the host,” explained Dr Stanton. “We need to further investigate the effects of CLA-producing bacteria on human metabolism, but our work so far certainly opens up new possibilities for the use of probiotics for improvement of human health.”


Rosberg-Cody E, Stanton C, O’Mahony L, Wall R, Shanahan F, Quigley E, Fitzgerald G, Ross P. Recombinant lactobacilli expressing linoleic acid isomerase can modulate the fatty acid composition of host adipose tissue in mice. Microbiology 2011; 157 (Pt 2): 609-15.


This is a trailer of the film Microwarriors: The Power of Probiotics (Health Point Productions).


Probiotics: Cultivate Health From Within

In 1941, a patient could receive 40,000 units of penicillin per day for 4 days and be cured of a case of Pneumococcal pneumonia. Today a patient could be given 24,000,000 units of penicillin per day and still may die of Pneumococcal meningitis. We are presently witnessing a massive, unprecedented, evolutionary change in bacteria. The misuse of antibiotics in health care is the main reason attributed to antibiotic resistance.


Dr. Khem Shahani (1923 -2001) was one of the world’s leading research authorities on the role of Lactobacilli and gastrointestinal bacteria. He published more than 200 peer reviewed scientific articles related to microorganisms and health. During his tenure at UNL, Dr Shahani isolated, developed and optimized the exceptional DDS-1 strain of Lactobacillus acidophilus. He founded Nebraska Cultures, Inc., where he developed strains of friendly flora for use as dietary supplements, was consultant to the World Health Organization, and received numerous awards for his work. Se also article about Dr Shahani on Wikipedia.


“Friendly Bacteria”: The Secret Ingredient to Everyday Good Health

Cultivate Health from Within: Dr. Shahani’s Guide to Probiotics (2005), an educational, eye-opening book on probiotics, is the culmination of four decades of scientific research by Dr. Khem Shahani. Recognized as the foremost pioneer in probiotics, Dr. Shahani’s studies to determine the value of probiotics to humankind resulted in his discovery of the DDS-1 strain of L. acidophilus, which was followed by decades of research proving its superior beneficial properties on our overall health.

Cultivate Health from Within is the culmination of his life’s work. This comprehensive, easy to read book provides a straightforward discussion of such questions as:

  • Is the overuse of antibiotics in America resulting in a strain of ‘superbugs,’ which are attacking the general population?

One of the greatest medical advances in the twentieth century is the discovery and use of antibiotics, which are considered to be the ‘drug of choice’ against bacterial and fungal infections. However, we are presently witnessing a massive, unprecedented, evolutionary change in bacteria. The misuse of antibiotics in health care is the main reason attributed to antibiotic resistance. ‘The American Public is drowning in an ocean of antibiotics,’ Dina Khader, M.S, CDN.

  • How do probiotics build your immune system?

When the human intestinal system gets out of balance, the unfriendly bacteria produce toxic substances that have detrimental effects on the overall system’s health and function. Probiotics help replenish the amount of ‘healthy bacteria’ in the gut, keeping your body healthy and able to fight off sickness.

  • How do probiotics counteract the effects of stress and anxiety?

Prolonged stress responses can shift the balance of friendly bacteria toward more pathogenic species. This shift can be counteracted through the use of probiotics.

  • How do the circadian rhythms of the human body impact the ecology in the human gut?

Intestinal microflora are influenced directly by circadian rhythms. To be healthy and have a balanced internal ecology, we need to get plenty of sunshine during the day and sleep at night.

  • What are doctors not telling you about probiotic supplements?

Dr. Nigel Plummer, a UK expert on lactic acid bacteria, recommends that any good probiotic supplement should contain at least 1 billion viable cells per daily dose, include an expiration date, contain human L. acidophilus and bifidobacteria, be able to tolerate stomach acid and bile and be capable of colonizing the human intestine.

  • Are all probiotics alike?

During the past 25 years, ongoing research on probiotics with more than 200 acidophilus products from the U.S. and abroad were examined. Up to 80% did not measure up to numerical claims, and in fact, nearly half had less than 10% of the claimed ingredients.

Cultivate Health from Within on Google Books


A Gut-Full Of Probiotics For Your Neurological Well-Being

Probiotics, often referred to as ‘good bacteria’, are known to promote a healthy gut, but can they promote a healthy mind? Exploring the new world of neurological probiotics, researchers in BioEssays present new ideas on how neurochemicals delivered directly to the gut, via probiotic intestinal microbiota, exert their beneficial effects in maintaining gastrointestinal health and even psychological well-being.

The research, led by Professor Mark Lyte from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, proposes that through a unifying process of microbial endocrinology, neurochemical-producing probiotics could act as a delivery mechanism for neuroactive compounds that could improve a host’s gastrointestinal and psychological health.

“This paper proposes a new field of microbial endocrinology, where microbiology meets neuroscience,” said Lyte. “There is already evidence to suggest that the connection between gut microbes and the nervous system represents a viable route for influencing neurological function. A recent study in mice, for example, showed that the presence of neurochemicals such a serotonin in the bloodstream was due to direct uptake from the gut.”

In his hypothesis Professor Lyte considers the selection of probiotics, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, and how the active uptake of neurochemicals, generated by bacteria in the gut and circulated through a patient’s bloodstream, represents a pathway for probiotics to exert extra-intestinal effects including behavioral changes.

Writing in a commentary piece in the same issue of BioEssays Professor Gregor Reid, from the University of Western Ontario, outlines some of the potential clinical implications of this research.

“Until recently the idea that probiotic bacteria administered to the intestine could influence the brain seemed almost surreal”, said Reid, “Yet in Lyte’s paper the concept is supported by studies showing that microbes can produce and respond to neurochemicals, which can induce neurological and immunological effects on the host.”

“The research presents an idea for selecting probiotic strains with neurological applications and linking this with immune-modulatory effects, while highlighting the fact that microbial strains already being widely ingested in fermented food can produce neurochemicals,” concluded Reid. “Could this mean that adjunct treatment for people suffering from certain types of mental health problems is a fecal transplant? Food for thought.”


• Lyte. M, “Probiotics function mechanistically as delivery vehicles for neuroactive compounds: Microbial Endocrinology in the design and use of probiotics” BioEssays, Wiley-Blackwell, July 2011, DOI: 10.1002/bies.201100024

• Reid. G, “Neuroactive probiotics”, BioEssays, Wiley-Blackwell July 2011, DOI: 10.1002/ bies.201100074