Probiotics as Antibiotics? What a Great Idea!

My regular readers know that I often quote my original guru, the famous functional medicine doctor, Sidney Baker.  Another of his truisms:  when looking at a patient, consider whether or not the patient has too much of something, or too little of something.  Yes, it’s a very simple concept – and I can’t tell you how much it helped me successfully work with my nutrition clients.  After all, too little of something can cause disease just as much as too much of something.

Since the development of penicillin, antibiotics have been the go-to treatment for ridding us of bad bacteria.  Doctors regarded patients as having too much of something, never considering that too little of something else might be the underlying issue.

This concept was just proven true once again, in some really amazing research[i] out of the National Institute of Health.  Working with researchers in Thailand, these scientists showed that supplementing with the probiotic species, Bacillus, eradicated the pathogenic bacteria Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus), the bacteria that causes potentially deadly staph infections.  In fact, “Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus” is the full name for the commonly recognized acronym, MRSA, the antibiotic-resistant infection that kills tens of thousands every year.

S. aureus can live in the nose and the gut. 200 volunteers in rural Thailand had their stool  analyzed for bacterial correlations with the absence of S. aureus. The scientists found 101 people had Bacillus bacteria (especially Bacillus subtilis, which is commonly found in probiotics – for example, this one) and none of these 101 people had S. aureus.  Of those without Bacillus, 25 had S. aureus in their guts and 26 had it in their noses.

Apparently, Bacillus produces a substance, something called fengycins, which inhibits the growth of staph – including the incredibly virulent strain that causes MRSA infection. To further test this correlation, the scientists colonized the guts of mice with S. aureus, and then fed them B. subtilis.  Giving the probiotic every 2 days eliminated the S. aureus.  When they gave mice Bacillus engineered to not produce fengycin, S. aureus proliferated.

“Probiotics frequently are recommended as dietary supplements to improve digestive health…This is one of the first studies to describe precisely how they may work to provide health benefits. The possibility that oral Bacillus might be an effective alternative to antibiotic treatment for some conditions is scientifically intriguing and definitely worthy of further exploration.”[ii]

This research is being pursued now in people. Imagine if all it takes to stop MRSA in its tracks is a simple probiotic!


[i] Pipat Piewngam et al, Pathogen elimination by probiotic Bacillus via signalling interference, Nature (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41586-018-0616-y


2 Comments on “Probiotics as Antibiotics? What a Great Idea!

  1. Probiotics are very helpful in restoring intestinal microflora. But a good doctor gastroenterologist can be to put together a diet that your body itself will restore its personal microflora. Which is much better than that created with the help of probiotics.

  2. Diet is certainly the number one key to good health, Celeste, and I have written about it many times on this blog. It is not, however, always enough. Even the best diet for microbiome health (which, I believe, is the Specific Carbohydrate Diet) cannot cure a serious bacterial infection. If I’ve learned anything in my 2+ decades of dealing with serious chronic illness, it’s that there is no 1 thing that is THE miracle. It takes a concerted effort, including biome restoration and repair, stress management, exercise, sleep, etc.

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