Probiotic consortium may reduce respiratory symptoms for overweight and obese adults: RCT

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© Paul Bradbury / Getty Images
© Paul Bradbury / Getty Images

Related tags URTI Respiratory system Respiratory tract infections Probiotics Bifidobacterium Lactobacillus

A combination of five probiotic strains may slash the symptoms of viral upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) by over 25%, with people over 45 experiencing greater benefits, says new data from the PROMAGEN study.

Data published in Gut Microbes​ also showed that the reductions in URTI symptom were observable within two weeks of consuming the probiotic, which was composed of Lactobacillus acidophilus​ CUL60 (NCIMB 30157), L. acidophilus​ CUL21 (NCIMB 30156), L. plantarum​ CUL66 (NCIMB 30280) Bifidobacterium bifidum​ CUL20 (NCIMB 30153) and B. animalis​ subsp. lactis​ CUL34 (NCIMB 30172).

“Probiotics are considered overall safe and well tolerated, and relatively limited alternative therapeutic options currently exist for prevention of URTIs (including COVID-19); as such, we feel that a compelling case exists for further randomized studies to prospectively explore the potential impact of probiotics on prevention of respiratory infection in particular for those at higher risk, including obese and older people,”​ wrote the researchers, led by Benjamin Mullish from Imperial College London.

The probiotic combination used is called Lab4P and is developed by Cultech Ltd. in the UK.

The microbiome and viral infection

Interest in how the microbiome and probiotics can support immune function and response has never been higher, with scientific studies reporting a potential role of the gut microbiota in the severity and duration of COVID-19​. Such links led prominent scientists like Professor Glenn Gibson and Dr Gemma Walton from the University of Reading and Dr Kirsty Hunter from Nottingham Trent University to ask the UK’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock to assess the role of the gut microbiome in coronavirus​.

Earlier this year, a review by members of the International Probiotics Association​, including ADM Health & Wellness, IFF (formerly DuPont Nutrition and Biosciences), IPA, Danone Nutricia Research, AB-BIOTICS S.A., Lallemand Health Solutions, and Triphase Pharmaceuticals, Pvt Ltd., stated “Given that certain microbiome states may increase susceptibility to infection and disease, interest has grown in the utility of probiotics (“live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host”), which offer the potential to beneficially alter the microbiome to enhance antiviral immunity.”

Study details

The new study expands on earlier findings from the 220-person double-blind, single-center, placebo-controlled PROMAGEN trial, which were published last year in Scientific Reports​ and reported significant differences between the probiotic and placebos groups for body weight, BMI, waist circumference, and waist-to-height ratio. In addition, improvements in small dense LDL-cholesterol and self-perceived quality of life were reported.

The new paper in Gut Microbes​ used data collected in symptom diaries considered most consistent with URTI: : cough, sore throat, headache, muscle ache and wheeze. The data was collected over a six-month period from July to January, “and as such included a significant period of the conventional peak season for influenza-like illnesses”,​ explained the researchers.

The results indicated that participants in the probiotic group experienced a 27% reduction in URTI symptoms versus placebo, with greater benefits being reported by people 45 years old or older or those with BMI of at least 30 kg/m2.

Interestingly, the researchers also reported that the diversity of the gut microbiome remained stable throughout the study in probiotic-treated participants.

“Our results extend upon existing data regarding the impact of probiotics upon viral URTI, by suggesting that probiotics may have a potential use for reducing URTI symptoms in overweight and obese people, and especially those of older age,” ​they wrote. “Furthermore, the Lab4P probiotic consortium may also have a potential role in stabilizing/preventing changes in gut microbiome composition in response to an URTI.

“… there is a need for additional research to better delineate mechanisms by which probiotic bacteria – either directly or via immune modulation – impact upon the gut-lung axis,” ​they concluded.

Source: Gut Microbes
2021, Volume 13, Issue 1, doi: 10.1080/19490976.2021.1900997
“Probiotics reduce self-reported symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection in overweight and obese adults: should we be considering probiotics during viral pandemics?”
Authors: B.H. Mullish et al.

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