Forty years ago, the famous Australian virologist Sir Macfarlane Burnett
said, regarding antibiotics, that “By the late twentieth century, we can
anticipate the virtual elimination of infectious diseases as a significant
factor in social life.”
Unfortunately, his prediction proved utterly wrong.
In the last couple of decades, we’ve seen the development of superbugs –
bacteria that are resistant to a wide range of antibiotics, which has left
researchers scrambling for solutions. Even a few years ago, our focus was on the
targeted elimination of specific bacteria through the use of antibiotics. In an
unforeseen consequence, the prevalent usage of these medications has altered
entire bacterial populations. This change represents a paradigm shift in the
treatment of both humans and companion animals. Fortunately, there is a tool in
our arsenal to help us all lead healthier lives.
Beneficial bacteria known as probiotics help to promote health and fight
illness in several ways. They actively block ‘bad’ bacteria from establishing
colonies, help maintain a healthy immune system, regulate inflammatory responses
and enhance cellular homeostasis (a state of balance in the body).
Probiotics are probably best-known for their promotion of digestive health.
However, researchers are finding that their benefits extend beyond the
intestinal system. Practically every month, new research is published in medical
journals detailing exciting new functions of probiotics.
Take, for example, current research into the application of probiotics in
periodontal disease. Advances in probiotic science have given periodontists the
ability to employ these friendly bacteria as nano-soldiers in combating plaque.
As we all know, plaque hardens into tartar which leads to periodontal disease.
Probiotics (L. acidophilus and L. casei) have been proven to inhibit formation
of disease-causing plaque by making saliva more acidic. Additionally, we’ve
found that probiotics also produce antioxidants, which can help prevent plaque
formation by neutralizing the free electrons needed for the mineralization of
plaque. When veterinarian scientists applied probiotics below the gum lines of
Beagles, they inhibited the growth of bad bacteria, reduced inflammation and
improved bone density (Chatterjee et al, 2011). Furthermore, halitosis, more
commonly known as ‘doggie breath’, is the odor released by volatile sulphur
compounds (VSC), which emanate from ‘bad bacteria’. Probiotics actually minimize
bad breath by altering VSCs into gasses required for metabolism (Chatterjee et
Who knew oral hygiene could be so exciting!
In humans, researchers are now studying the effects of probiotics in the
treatment of childhood asthma and eczema, two diseases often related to
childhood dietary allergies. Lactobacillus rhamnosus is of particular interest
in human medicine, as children supplemented with lysed (broken down) L.
rhamnosus cells showed a substantial improvement in quality of life, skin
symptoms and skin irritation (Hoang et al, 2010). Yu et al (2010) found that
oral treatment with L. rhamnosus prior to sensitization can reduce airway
inflammation and hyperreactivity in allergic airway inflammation, suggesting
that L. rhamnonsus may one day be used for the prevention of asthma. However,
these areas require further study to determine the full promise of treatment by
But wait, there’s more! Probiotics are currently being studied for potential
human treatment in several areas, including dental caries, vaginitis, urogenital
infections, irritable bowel disease, cystic fibrosis, Travellers' diarrhea and
even various cancers. In the next few years, I believe we will see significant
advances in probiotic research that will benefit both humans and companion
Rest assured that all of us here at Life’s Abundance are committed to
reviewing and utilizing the best of new scientific research to promote the
health of you and your fur kids!
Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place for companion animals.
Dr. Jane Bicks
Chatterjee A, Bhattacharya H, Kandwal A. Probiotics in periodontal
health and disease. J Indian Soc Periodontol. 2011 Jan;15(1):23-8.
Hoang BX, Shaw G, Pham P, Levine SA. Lactobacillus rhamnosus cell lysate
in the management of resistant childhood atopic eczema. Inflamm Allergy
Drug Targets. 2010 Jul 1;9(3):192-6.
Yu J, Jang SO, Kim BJ, Song YH, Kwon JW, Kang MJ, Choi WA, Jung HD, Hong
SJ. The Effects of Lactobacillus rhamnosus on the Prevention of Asthma
in a Murine Model. Allergy Asthma Immunol Res. 2010 Jul;2(3):199-205.
Epub 2010 Mar 19.
Anna Oksaharju, Matti Kankainen, Riina A Kekkonen, Ken A Lindstedt,
Petri T Kovanen, Riitta Korpela, and Minja Miettinen. Probiotic
Lactobacillus rhamnosus downregulates FCER1andHRH4 expression in human
mast cells. World J Gastroenterol. 2011. February 14; 17(6): 750-759.
Elliott DR, Wilson M, Buckley CM, Spratt DA. Cultivable oral microbiota
of domestic dogs. J Clin Microbiol. 2005 Nov;43(11):5470-6.