A safe and transient surface coating protects probiotic bacteria from destruction by antibiotic treatments, enhancing their potential to restore healthy microbiomes
Antibiotics are the most prescribed medications in the world because of their ability to kill dangerous pathogenic bacteria. However, they also attack the body’s essential microbiome, which contains beneficial microbes in the intestinal tract, skin and the mucous membranes that cover many tissue surfaces. This results in an imbalance in the normal microbiome known as dysbiosis, which is increasingly associated with many detrimental health conditions, including antibiotic-associated diarrhea, inflammation, allergic reactions, and even high levels of stress or anxiety. Over time, dysbiosis can also contribute to diabetes, obesity, and neurological disorders.
To avoid these consequences, it is important for the body to restore a healthy balance in its microbiome as fast as possible following or even during necessary antibiotic treatments. In order to accelerate this process, some clinicians recommend high doses of “probiotics” (consortia of live beneficial bacteria and other microbial organisms that are commonly found in fermented foods like yogurt), taken as dietary supplements in pill form. However, their benefits are often limited by the antibiotic treatments themselves, which also kill the probiotic bacteria strains.
To shield probiotics against these adverse influences, Wyss Institute researchers have developed an approach that armors individual probiotic bacterial cells with a safe and edible coating consisting of an adhesive material that uses components derived from plant extracts. This coating can be easily applied to probiotic bacteria before freeze-drying, which can then be formulated in any combination as enteric capsules. Once having taken hold in the intestinal tract, the Armored Probiotic bacteria start to multiply and lose their protective coating and return to their natural state, making the technology risk-free.
The strategy, tested with a series of common probiotic bacterial species, significantly increased their resistance against a spectrum of often-used antibiotics in in vitro culture assays and in the intestinal tract of live rats, prolonging their survival and probiotic potential. Because it can protect many bacterial species, the Armored Probiotics approach can be broadly applied to various probiotic consortia and therapies and in the future can also be used with bacteria that have been engineered to deliver specific therapeutics or diagnostics to the intestinal tract.
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