Study uncovers ways to personalise probiotics

11 Jul 2024
Study uncovers ways to personalise probiotics

New research has shown genetics may play a crucial part in the efficacy of probiotics.

Recently published in the ISME Journal, the study, led by Dr Steven Taylor and Professor Geraint Rogers from SAHMRI and Flinders University, focussed on the interactions between probiotics and individual genetic traits. 

Researchers say their findings suggest a more tailored approach to using probiotics may have the potential to significantly enhance gut microbiome regeneration and related health benefits.

Microbiome plays a pivotal role in shaping various aspects of human health, from our immune system and metabolism to our central nervous system and nutrient absorption. Probiotics, which are live bacteria introduced into the gut, have been shown to help restore balance in our gut microbiota, particularly after disruptions like antibiotic use.

“Probiotics have gained a lot of popularity for their capacity to harness the benefits of the gut microbiome in health and disease. However, we do not yet know how to best use them and why they work for some people but not others,” Dr Taylor said.

The research team identified a key factor contributing to this variability, the individual's secretor status, a genetic trait that affects how sugars are presented on the gut lining, influencing which bacteria can thrive there.

The study revealed that non-secretors, who make up about 20% of the population, may get less value from using probiotics after being on antibiotics compared to secretors. However, the opposite is observed in the absence of antibiotics, in which case non-secretors have a stronger response to probiotics than secretors, due to the gut microbiome having more space for probiotics to occupy.

“Our work demonstrates how common genetic differences between people can influence the way probiotics persist in the gut. This can inform better use of probiotic strategies,” Dr Taylor said.

"For non-secretors, we might need to look at specific prebiotics or dietary supplements that can enhance probiotic effectiveness. For example, certain sugar molecules from human milk have been shown to improve probiotic persistence and could be a valuable addition for these individuals."

This study cautions against viewing probiotics as a one-size-fits-all solution and paves the way for a more personalised approach to treatments that take into account an individual's genetic background and recent health history, potentially leading to more consistent and effective health outcomes.

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