Failure to publish research retards probiotic progress

By Shane Starling from Copenhagen

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Probiotic strains Lactobacillus

The failure to publish clinical studies demonstrating the
effectiveness of certain probiotic strains to reduce the symptoms
of bacterial vaginosis is bordering on scientific negligence,
according to Gregor Reid, PhD, an expert in the area.

Speaking at a conference this week hosted by Danish probiotics specialist, Chr Hansen, Dr Reid highlighted a three-year-old Polish study that found probiotics could benefit women with urogenital health issues that had not been peer-reviewed. "I can't tell you why this research has not been peer-reviewed, but it's a perfectly valid study and it demonstrates how Lactobacillus GR-1 and RC-14 can benefit pregnant women suffering from bacterial vaginosis,"​ he told "I have encouraged the researchers to publish this work so hopefully it will see the light of the day in the journals soon. It is not enough to present this kind of data at conference. It needs to be peer-reviewed and published. It is very frustrating."​ Despite this Dr Reid said more science was being commissioned as a wider pool of academics became interested in researching the area. Dr Reid has spent many years studying the potential of probiotic strains to benefit women's health and in particular bacterial vaginosis, a problem that affects about 30 per cent of women between the ages of 14 and 49. His research has led him to the conclusion that the combination of two particular strains - GR-1 (Lactobacilli rhamnosus​) and RC-14 (Lactobacilli reuteri​) - provide the greatest benefit for the relief and prevention of bacterial vaginosis. Research indicated treatment with supplements containing these two probiotic strains could be more effective than popular antibiotic solutions. A course of supplements could have effect in 3-5 days with suppositories showing quicker take-up rates although none were yet available on market. Market strains ​ While it was encouraging to see major supplements manufacturers offering products in the area, Dr Reid said many of them were missing the mark in formulation and marketing. "The problem with bacterial vaginosis is that it is one of those problems that has long been swept under the carpet despite its prevalence,"​ he said. "Companies need to think very clearly about the kind of messages they use on these kinds of products. Ocean Spray's approach to urinary tract infections with its cranberry juice is a good example of how to tackle such a sensitive issue."​ He said supplement makers that blended "any old strains"​ were damaging the sector because women tried the products and, finding them ineffective, failed to repurchase. "We have worked for 25 years to try and determine the best combination and there are products out there that seem to select the probiotic strains in a completely random way,"​ he observed. "It's not to say our combination is the perfect one but we have a lot research that indicates its effectiveness."​ A "bigger is best"​ policy was not helping either as supplements makers wedged as many as 20bn units of live bacteria into single supplements. "It's like a super-size me approach to probiotics,"​ he said. "Yes your stomach will fill up but is it any more beneficial? I'm not sure it is. There is no point putting in 20bn if you don't need 20bn."​ His own research had indicated 1bn organisms per supplement was an ideal number. The Lactobacilli family of probiotic strains was first clinically demonstrated to have benefits for urogenital health in 1973. Probiotics are defined by the World Health Organization as: "Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host."

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