Probiotic India

History

Fermented products with live organisms have existed for centuries and were developed because of the need to extend the shelf-life of common and precious commodities like dairy and became one of the oldest forms of preservation.  The ability of beneficial bacteria to transform milk into a longer lasting food was recorded as far back as 6,000 years ago. Long before the existence of micro-organisms was even known or recognized, fermented products were used therapeutically, to treat colds, fevers, and ailments of the gastro- intestinal tract such as constipation and diarrhea.

Russian scientist and Nobel laureate Élie Metchnikoff, beginning of the 20th century suggested that it would be possible to modify the gut flora and to replace harmful microbes with useful microbes. Metchnikoff, at that time a professor at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, proposed the hypothesis that the ageing process results from the activity of putrefactive (proteolytic) microbes producing toxic substances (phenols, ammonia) in the large bowel. According to Metchnikoff, these compounds were responsible for what he called "intestinal auto-intoxication", which caused the physical changes associated with old age. Milk Fermented with lactic-acid bacteria inhibited the growth of proteolytic bacteria because of the low pH produced by the fermentation of lactose. Metchnikoff had also observed that certain rural populations in Europe, for example, in Bulgaria and the Russian steppes who lived largely on milk fermented by lactic-acid bacteria were exceptionally long lived. Metchnikoff proposed that consumption of fermented milk would "seed" the intestine with harmless lactic-acid bacteria and decrease the intestinal pH and that this would suppress the growth of proteolytic bacteria. Metchnikoff himself introduced in his diet sour milk fermented with the bacteria he called "Bulgarian Bacillus" and found his health benefited.

  • Persian tradition asserts that the biblical patriarch Abraham owed his longevity to a diet of fermented milk.
  • Later, Tissier found that bifidobacteria are dominant in the gut flora of breast-fed babies and he observed clinical benefits from treating diarrhea in infants with bifidobacteria. The claimed effect was bifidobacterial displacement of proteolytic bacteria causing the disease.
  • During an outbreak of shigellosis in 1917, German professor Alfred Nissle isolated a strain of E. coli from the feces of a soldier who was not affected by the disease. Nissle used the Escherichia coli Nissle 1917 strain in acute gastrointestinal infectious Salmonellosis and Shigellosis.
  • In 1920, Rettger demonstrated that Metchnikoff's "Bulgarian Bacillus", later called Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, could not live in the human intestine. Metchnikoff's theory was disputable (at this stage) and people doubted his theory of longevity.
  • After Metchnikoff's death in 1916, the centre of activity moved to the United States. It was reasoned that bacteria originating from the gut were more likely to produce the desired effect in the gut, and in 1935 certain strains of Lactobacillus acidophilus were found to be very active when implanted in the human digestive tract.
  • In early 1930’s, in Japan, Minoru Shirota  a researcher at the Faculty of Medicine at Kyoto University developed a fermented milk product called Yakult.
  • The term "probiotics" was first introduced in 1953 by Werner Kollath. Contrasting antibiotics, probiotics were defined as microbially derived factors that stimulate the growth of other microorganisms. In 1989, Roy Fuller suggested a definition of probiotics that has been widely used: "A live microbial feed supplement which beneficially affects the host animal by improving its intestinal microbial balance". Fuller's definition emphasizes the requirement of viability for probiotics and introduces the aspect of a beneficial effect on the host.

In the following decades, intestinal lactic acid bacterial species with purported health beneficial properties have been introduced as probiotics, including Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus casei, and Lactobacillus johnsonii.