Probiotics: Introduction, Types, Characteristics, Mechanism of action, and Current Status of Probiotics in India

Probiotics: Introduction, Types, Characteristics, Mechanism of action, and Current Status of Probiotics in India


Probiotics are common bacteria and other microorganisms that are good for the health of both people and animals. A probiotic, according to Fuller, is a live microbial food supplement that enhances the intestinal microbial balance in the host animal or person. It also refers to fermented food items for humans, such as yoghurt, curd, lyophilized bacteria, etc. The phrase originally referred to bacteria that supported the growth of other microorganisms, but it is now also used to describe live microorganisms that support or maintain a healthy balance of the gastrointestinal tract’s native microbial community. Such organisms need not always reside in the GI tract, but they should have a positive impact on both human and animal health in general. Probiotics are “live bacteria that, when provided in suitable proportions, impart a health benefit on the host,” according to the World Health Organization. Probiotics have been defined more precisely in recent years as mono or mixed cultures of live microorganisms that, when given to humans or animals, improve the characteristics of the native microflora.

The term probiotic was derived from the Greek word, meaning for life. Kollath initially coined this term in 1953. Probiotics have been around for a very long time. Human ingestion of fermented milk is credited as the origin of the probiotic. Probiotics then gained popularity in animal nutrition. Even in the Vedic era, the importance of fermented milk in the human diet was understood. Microbiologists discovered in the late 19th century that the microflora in the gastrointestinal tracts of healthy people differed from that found in sick people. The pioneering work of Metchnikoff from the Pasteur Institute in the early 1900s can be credited with the initial detection of the beneficial role of these bacteria. To replace dangerous microorganisms with helpful ones, he advised giving these helpful bacteria a cold. Metchnikoff looked into the extraordinary number of Bulgarians who reach their 100th birthday. He claimed that a bacteria in the popular Bulgarian yoghurt was responsible for their good health and longevity, and he called the yoghurt-culturing microbe Lactobacillus Bulgaricus in honour of the Bulgarian people.

The first Bifidobacterium was isolated by Henry Tissier, who is from the same institution. Bacillus bifidus communis is the name of the bacteria he identified from a breastfed child. Bifidobacterium bifidum is the new name given to this bacteria. Tissier demonstrated that bifidobacteria predominate in the gut flora of breastfed newborns and advised giving bifidobacteria to infants with diarrhoea. According to the proposed process, bifidobacteria would supplant the disease-causing proteolytic bacteria. 5 In 1917, during a severe outbreak of shigellosis, German researcher Alfred Nissle discovered an Escherichia coli strain from the excrement of a soldier who did not get enterocolitis. Antibiotics had not yet been found in those days. In severe cases of intestinal infections like Shigellosis and Salmonellosis, Nissle employed the strain with great effectiveness. Escherichia coli Nissle 1917 is one of the few examples of a non-LAB probiotic that is still in use today. 6 The dairy industry started promoting fermented milk products with Lactobacillus acidophilus in the 1960s. Other Lactobacillus species, such as Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus helveticus, Lactobacillus casei, and Lactobacillus rhamnosus, have been added in succeeding decades since they are intestine species with advantageous qualities.

Types of Probiotics

Probiotics can be found in the following forms: powder, liquid, gel, paste, granules, capsules, sachets, etc. Probiotics might be yeast, moulds, or bacteria. Probiotics are typically bacteria, though. Lactic acid bacteria are more common than other bacteria. Bacterial probiotics such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactis, Lactobacillus helviticus, Lactobacillus salivarius, Lactobacillus plantrum, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus fermentum, Lactobacillus delbrueckii, Streptococc. A probiotic can be created from a single bacterial strain or a group of strains. For instance, the probiotic LB17 contains 17 lactic acid bacteria strains (10 lactobacilli and 2 bifidobacteria), as well as digestive enzymes, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. Recent research reveals that probiotic effects are strain-specific, which implies that even when two strains of the same species are present together, they would not necessarily have the same therapeutic effects.

Characteristics of Effective Probiotics

An effective probiotic must possess qualities like having a positive effect, being non-pathogenic and non-toxic, having a large number of viable cells, being able to survive and digest in the gut, remaining viable during storage and use, having good sensory properties, and being isolated from the same species. Probiotics, when utilised correctly, have a variety of positive impacts. Probiotics provide a variety of positive health effects, such as improving digestion, suppressing some malignancies, increasing resistance to infectious diseases, lowering blood cholesterol levels, and boosting GI tract immunity.

Therapeutic Usage

Probiotics have been used to boost growth, treat lactose intolerance, fight cancer, and lower cholesterol. Probiotics have been thoroughly investigated in both in vitro and in vivo settings. Heart conditions, allergic reactions, cancer, diarrhoea, etc. are the key research areas for probiotics. Probiotic use has been well-documented to reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance due to an increase in galactosidase concentration in the small intestine, relieve constipation by improving bowel function, prevent tumour growth, destroy carcinogens, and other conditions. The advantages of probiotic dietary supplements for the gastrointestinal system are widely known. According to a recent study, the entire body benefits as well. For instance, the lactobacillus in curd is meant to help the body’s native intestinal flora reestablish itself. Doctors and dietitians advise them after an antibiotic course or as part of the treatment for the fungal infection gut-related candidiasis. The inclusion of Lactobacillus supplements reduced intestinal infections brought on by Escherichia coli, and Campylobacter foetus subsp. jejuni, Clostridium perfringens, and C. botulinum. Bifidobacterium longum and Lactobacillus have both demonstrated efficacious outcomes in minimising the side effects of antibiotic therapy. Probiotics are said to boost immunity and help the body fight off ailments like allergies, excessive alcohol consumption, stress, and other illnesses. Normal immunological response to infection is quick and efficient. However, on occasion, it might result in inflammation and harm to good tissue.

In modest studies, several probiotic species have shown promise in the management of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis; nevertheless, a definite therapeutic benefit has not yet been proven. More research has been done on relapse prevention than on ongoing illness management. The subsequent controlled trials serve as examples: In a one-month randomised controlled experiment, the combination of a prebiotic (food designed to encourage the growth of specific bacteria in the intestines) and a probiotic (Bifidobacterium longum) was linked to an improvement in histologic scores and immune activation. While Lactobacillus GG did not affect relapse rates in patients with quiescent ulcerative colitis, it did appear to be more beneficial than usual therapy using mesalazine in extending relapse-free duration. Prednisolone was administered to patients with active colonic CD on a regular schedule, and they were also randomly assigned to receive E. coli (Nissle 1917) or a placebo for a year. Patients in the two groups saw comparable remission rates, but those receiving prednisolone and E. coli had fewer relapses than those receiving a placebo.

Mechanism of Action

Probiotic advantages’ underlying mechanisms are not well understood. Probiotics typically have several different mechanisms of action. Below is a list of them.

1. Pathogenic bacteria’s inhibition of growth or epithelial adherence or invasion

2. They colonise and stick to the colon, enhancing the barrier function of the intestinal mucosa and assisting in the treatment of food allergies and intestinal infections.

3. Bacteriocins, which are antibacterial compounds, are secreted.

4. They decrease the levels of immunoglobulins in the blood, particularly immunoglobulin A, in rotavirus-infected babies.

5. They increase the granulocytes in circuiting blood’s nonspecific immunophagocytic activity.

6. They enhance the gut immune system’s defence against viral infection.

7. They increase the frequency of peripheral blood monocyte production and interferon ganing.

They release specific proteolytic enzymes that break down bacterial poisons.

9. By adhering to the chemical carcinogen, they change the initiation and/or promotional events of the chemically generated cancers.

There are several theories about how probiotic products can influence the immune system. In the mucosa of individuals with pouchitis and Crohn’s disease, these include the production of protective cytokines like interleukin (IL)-10 and transforming growth factor (TGF) and the suppression of proinflammatory cytokines like tumour necrosis factor (TNF) (CD). In experimental research, Saccharomyces boulardii has been shown to restrict the migration of T-helper 1 (TH1) cells in inflamed colon tissue in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The efficiency of probiotics depends on their capacity to endure the alkaline circumstances of the duodenum and the acidic environment of the stomach, as well as their capacity to colonise and attach to the intestinal mucosa of the colon. To sustain their impact on microecology, probiotics are often given one to ten billion colony-forming units (CFU) a few times each week. Keeping the microorganisms in optimal conditions for storage and transportation before consumption is crucial because they must be alive when they are consumed. Apart from gas and constipation, probiotics are generally well tolerated and don’t cause any major adverse effects.

Current status of probiotics in India

Only sporulating lactobacilli are generated in India, and some antibiotic preparations call for them as well. Here, probiotics are frequently used for veterinarian and poultry feed. Probiotics imported from abroad also satisfy this criterion. The most often utilised ones for humans are yoghurt (L. bulgaricus + L. thermophillus), Sporolac, and Saccharomyces boulardii. Sporolactobacilli are used to make sporolac. A common probiotic in India administered to paediatric patients is lactobacilli solution. ViBact, a probiotic supplement consisting of genetically engineered Bacillus mesentricus, is the newest and most recent addition to the list of probiotics in India. This serves as a substitute for B-complex capsules.


Probiotics are becoming more and more popular due to their numerous advantages, such as their ability to treat conditions like lactose intolerance, hypercholesterolemia, and heart disorders as well as manage conditions like atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis. Probiotics are now found in many different foods and supplements. The market potential for probiotics is huge given the present emphasis on illness prevention and the pursuit of ideal health at all ages. Professionals in the medical field are in a prime position to assist and advise their patients on the proper preventative and therapeutic applications of probiotics that produce the desired positive health effects. Probiotic research has increased recently, and the idea of probiotic foods has gained more commercial interest. Increasing amounts of research have led to major improvements in our knowledge of and ability to classify particular probiotic organisms, which has led to a growing body of evidence pointing to the health advantages of eating food containing probiotics.

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