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 al, 2011).
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 probiotics.
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 animals.
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.