Probiotics typically aim to rebalance bacteria populations in the gut, but new research suggests they may also help break apart stubborn biofilms.
Probiotics typically aim to rebalance bacteria populations in the gut, but new research suggests they may also help break apart stubborn biofilms. Biofilms are living microbial communities–they provide a haven for microbes and are often resistant to antibiotics. A new study describes a specific probiotic mix that could help patients with gastrointestinal diseases avoid harmful biofilms that can worsen their symptoms.
The study evaluated the ability of a novel probiotic to prevent and treat biofilms containing yeast and bacteria–in particular, species that thrive in damaged guts. Biofilms can contain an infectious polymicrobial mix of bacteria and fungi all living together underneath a thick protective slime. These polymicrobial communities are resistant to antibiotics, but can be antagonized by other microbes. Other microbes living in the gut–or administered via probiotics–can help break apart biofilms, according to the new study.
In a series of experiments published in The American Society for Microbiology’s journal mBio, researchers from Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals (UH) Cleveland Medical Center grew yeast (Candida species) and bacteria (Escherichia coli and Serratia marcescens) into biofilms. They then exposed the biofilms to a promising probiotic mixidentified in a previous study–one part yeast, three parts bacteria, and a small amount of amylase (an enzyme found in saliva). Microscope images showed biofilms exposed to the mix were looser-knit communities that were overall thinner and weaker than untreated biofilms.
The researchers found the probiotic worked in part by weakening yeast living in young biofilms. The yeast inside the biofilms were stunted in growth and did not form reproductive structures that help seed new biofilm growth and expansion. The researchers concluded their novel probiotic mix might help prevent harmful biofilms in people with inflammatory bowel disease or other gastrointestinal conditions.
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