On going research on probiotics- may provide a leap for mankind

By Dr Shakira Ghazanfar (PhD Microbiology), Maryam Idrees Malik (PhD Scholar),

National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC), Islamabad was established in 1984. Since its inception, it holds a pivotal position as being the largest research centre of Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC). NARC, located near Rawal Lake, retains a total land area of approximately 1400 acres; it provides massive means of research opportunities for scientists requiring sophisticated instruments and technologies. The research that is put forward by the hard-working and diligent scientists results in, filling the gaps in the current scientific knowledge and betterment of mankind.

One such research is being executed under the expertise of Director General Dr. Ghulam Muhammad Ali, at National Institute for Genomics and Advanced Biotechnology (NIGAB), NARC. We worked on various projects related to the improvement of livestock productivity. Among one of her key projects, we successfully WON a mega “PARB 1002” project (worth Rupee 15.86 Millions), from Punjab Agricultural Research Board to develop the Animal Probiotic for Improving Nilli Ravi buffalo Milk Yield; that aimed to produce Pakistan’s first whole genome characterized indigenous Probiotic for buffalo use.

“While addressing the prevalence of antibiotic resistance, we should go back to nature. Isolating the indigenousprobiotic bacterial strains and then using these in lieu of antibiotics can prove beneficial for mitigating the antibiotic load in both humans and animals”, said Dr Ghulam Muhammad Ali. He further added, “In spite of killing pathogenic microbes with antibiotics, the use of beneficial bacteria through dietary supplements establishes healthy microflora that in turn hinders the growth of disease-causing microorganisms”.

The research principally focuses on the development of Animal probiotics from the isolated strains of indigenous bacteria. So naturally one questions, what are probiotics? The notion of probiotics in simplest words is, “Probiotics are live microorganisms that are intended to have health benefits.” Despite the common understanding of bacteria as pathogens or germs, myriads of microorganisms help our bodies to function properly. For instance, bacteria that are typically present in our intestines help in the digestion of food, destroy food-borne pathogens (i-e disease-causing microorganisms) and produce vitamins. There are a large number of microorganisms that live on and in our bodies, hence constituting our natural microflora.Many of the probiotics products contain these beneficial microorganisms that naturally live in our bodies. Most commonly used bacteria belong to the groups, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Other bacteria can also be used as probiotics and so can be yeasts such as Saccharomyces boulardii.

World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 700,000 deaths globally each year in reference to antibiotic resistance and furthermore, it is expected to reach 10 Million deaths in the next35 years. The indiscriminate and improper use of antibiotics leads to antibiotic resistance and that in turn renders illnesses that were once completely treatable by common antibiotics, untreatable. After acquiring antibiotic resistance genes, bacteria harbor the ability to defeat the drugs that were once formulated to kill them, resulting in dangerous and fatal infections that in turn lead to hospital morbidities and mortalities.

The following are the areas where probiotics may be indicated:
Rotavirus diarrhea, reduction of antibiotic-associated side effects, food allergies and lactose intolerance, atopic eczema, prevention of vaginitis, urogenital infections, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, cystic fibrosis, traveller’s diarrhea, lowering of blood cholesterol levels, enhance oral vaccine administration, H. pylori infection, various cancers, oral and dental conditions such as dental Caries, periodontal diseases and oral malodour.

The importance of probiotics in women and children’s health cannot be undermined. Researches around the world show that use of probiotics helps in reducing the frequency of urinary tract infections (UTI’s). Moreover, probiotics can ward off vaginal yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis and urinogenital infections by keeping the vaginal microbiome in balance. Studies have shown that by consuming Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus fermentatum strains can prove beneficial in improving vaginal microflora.

Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a severe gastrointestinal disease in preterm infants and the most common cause of morbidity and mortality in neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Modern advances in probiotics have been shown to reduce the NEC risk in premature neonates. The bloom of Gammaproteobacteria precedes NEC infection. Probiotic formulations containing Bifidobacterium and Lactobacilli helpto down regulate the growth of Gammaproteobacteria andrestore the normal microbiota in preterm infants.

The present article provides a mean to highlight the role of probiotics and the on-going research in this particular field. The future of our generations rests in the hands of research, as it’s not only a tool of building knowledge but also a source for finding solutions to our existing problems as well as for the predicaments in times to come.


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