New probiotic seeks to capitalize on growing awareness of gut-lung axis

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

©Getty Images - Morsa Images
©Getty Images - Morsa Images

Related tags Probiotics Respiratory system Respiratory tract infections respiratory health Lung function

A new probiotic has hit the market with an unusual claim to boost lung health. The product arose out of work at a university in Alabama and represents a growing trend.

Called ResBiotic, the product is the brainchild of Dr Vivek Lal, MD, who is the director of the Pulmonary Microbiome Laboratory at the University of Alabama Birmingham as well as the CEO and CSO of ResBiotic, the eponymous company.  Dr Lal said the research that led to the product launch stretches back for some time.

“We started studying this almost 10 years ago,”​ Dr Lal told NutraIngredients-USA. “But the pandemic has really spurred interest in anything related to the lungs.  Studies relating to the gut-lung axis have really spiraled in the past year.”

Rapidly expanding field of research

A search on teh PubMed database backs up Dr Lal’s assertion. Using the term ‘gut lung axis,’ there were 10 matching studies done in 2016.  That number grew to 146 in 2021.  Similarly, searchers using the terms ‘gut lung microbiome’ came up with 16 and 332 studies, respectively, whereas the numbers for a ‘gut lung microbiota’ search came up with 47 and 286 studies, respectively.

A number of his Alabama-Birmingham colleagues are participating in the new company, Dr Lal said.  Together, they have been in forefront of research in the field.

“For us who were already in this field we can look back to a time when the lung was not identified as an organ that harbors a microbiome,” ​he said.

“We started by studying chronic lung disease in infants,”​ Dr Lal said.

In the years since, research done by scientists associated with teh brand have looked at a host of gut-lung interactions.  Some of the various aspects of the gut-lung axis investigated by members of team include a study looking at interplay between the severe gut and lung problems that afflict many premature infants​.  Other studies looked at using a multiomics approach to longitudinal data relating to parameters of lung development​ in infants as well as a paper that looked to reconstructing the characteristics of the airway microbiome​ at birth.

How the gut-lung axis works

The basic mode of communication is a physical translocation of some organisms, similar in a way to how the gut microbiome  can influence the type and relative abundance of organisms inhabiting the vagina.  It’s a different mode of action from the more well known gut-brain axis, in which conditions in the brain are affected by what’s happening in the gut via communication along the vagus nerve.  There is also an aspect of the gut-lung axis that operates through the bloodstream, Dr Lal said.

“There are systemic effects via the metabolites of the gut microbiome that may anti inflammatory in nature and through the blood these reach the lungs,” ​he said.

And, he said, it’s an inaccurate to view the separations in the alimentary tract like the hatches of a submarine.  The human body in an integrated organism, and traces of one system or function can be found in another.

“There is a constant micro aspiration of the contents of the GI tract which reaches the lungs,” ​he said.

Shifts in microbiome makeup seen in chronic lung diseases

Dr Lal said the idea for a probiotic product specifically designed along the lines of the gut-lung access came from early research into COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

“COPD is associated with decreased fiber intake.  In chronic lung disease there was a change in the microbiome throughout the development of the disease. From the start of the disease to the end there was an increase in proteobacteria and a decrease in the preponderance of ‘good’ bacteria,”​ he said.

The ResBiotic product is a blend of three strains isolated by the company during its research. They are identified as Lactiplantibacillus plantarum​ RSB11, Lactobacillus acidophilus​ RSB12 and Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus ​RSB13.  In addition, the product contains a vasaka (Adhatoda vasica​) leaf extract, an extract of holy basil (Ocimum sanctum​) and a turmeric (Curcuma longa​) extract.  The product is branded to contain 15 billion CFU of probiotics in each capsule.

Possible sports benefit

I like to joke that this is a product for anyone who breathes,” ​Dr Lal said.

“It could benefit athletes who are looking for better lung function, or for people who are concerned about their lung health because of environmental exposures,”​ he said.

Dr Lal said each strain has research backing its benefits in lung health.  In addition, the company has several trials underway of the finished formulation in places like Ireland and India, he said.

The product is currently for sale on the company’s own website, where a month’s supply costs $70, which drops below $60 if a consumer signs up for a monthly subscription.

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