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Could probiotics have a role to play in the treatment of psoriasis? A recent analysis and review of studies suggests that they might. Psoriasis is a non-contagious, chronic disease affecting about 2 to 4% of the population, and which is characterized by patches of abnormal skin. These skin patches are typically red, itchy, and scaly, and can cover small areas to covering the entire body. There is no cure for psoriasis, but various treatments can help control the symptoms, such as steroid creams, vitamin D3 cream, ultraviolet light, and immune system suppressing medications. 

What did the researchers find? They said that "new evidence suggests that the microbiome may play a pathogenic role in psoriatic disease" - meaning the community of microbes (microbiome) may be involved in this disease. There is dysbiosis of the skin microbiome (microbial community is out of whack) in areas of skin lesions or patches. Areas of skin lesions had a different microbiome ("lesional psoriatic microbiome") compared to healthy skin - and in these skin lesions or patches some microbial species increase which leads to a decrease or elimination of others. Not just differences in bacteria, but also in fungi and viruses.

in psoriasis the microbial community of the gut is also out of whack (dysbiosis of the gut microbiome). And the gut microbiome is different in those with psoriasis limited to just skin patches, and those with complications of psoriasis (e.g., psoriatic arthritis) - and several studies found that these shifts in the gut microbiome occurred before the psoriatic complications became evident. That suggests that probiotics might help. But which ones?

The researchers state: "Other changes observed in gut microbiome studies include a decrease in Actinobacteria. This may suggest a protective role of Actinobacteria, a phylum which includes Bifidobacterium species that have been shown to reduce intestinal inflammation, suppress autoimmunity, and induce Tregs." They go on to state that one 2013 study by Groeger et al demonstrated that eating Bifidobacteria infantis 35,624 for 6–8 weeks in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial reduced inflammatory markers (plasma CRP and TNF-a) in psoriasis patients. Bifidobacterium species, including B. infantis, are commonly found in many multi-strain supplements. So I wonder, what happens if people with psoriasis take them over an extended period? Will the skin psoriasis skin patches improve? This is currently unknown. But...If you've had success with probiotics as a  psoriasis treatment - please let me know. What microbes? And for what symptoms of psoriasis?

From Current Dermatology Reports : The Role of the Skin and Gut Microbiome in Psoriatic Disease

Our review of studies pertaining to the cutaneous microbiome showed a trend towards an increased relative abundance of Streptococcus and a decreased level of Propionibacterium in psoriasis patients compared to controls. In the gut microbiome, the ratio of Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes was perturbed in psoriatic individuals compared to healthy controls. Actinobacteria was also relatively underrepresented in psoriasis patients relative to healthy individuals.

Summary: Although the field of the psoriatic microbiome is relatively new, these first studies reveal interesting differences in microbiome composition that may be associated with the development of psoriatic comorbidities and serve as novel therapeutic targets.

 Psoriasis. Credit: Medscape

Could something as simple as giving a probiotic and a sugar for 7 days prevent sepsis in babies? Sepsis is a life-threatening infection that is a HUGE problem in developing countries such as India. It is a major cause of death in babies throughout the world, even with antibiotic treatment. So this new research (done in India) finding that giving newborn babies a probiotic plus the sugar fructooligosaccharide (FOS) for only one week had the result of lowering the incidence of sepsis and death by 40%, and also infections is huge news. A game changer.

The researchers found that the strain given to the babies was very important. They first tried Lactobacillus GG and Lactobacillus sporogenes, but didn't have success. But a strain of Lactobacillus plantarum was amazingly effective. They gave it together with a sugar - fructooligosaccharide (FOS) - which together worked as a synbiotic. Synbiotics are combinations of probiotics with an FOS supplement that promotes growth and colonization of the beneficial bacteria. FOS (which is naturally found in breast milk and such plants as onion, chicory, garlic, asparagus, banana, artichoke, agave, leeks, wheat, barley), is food for the probiotic bacteria.

It must be pointed out that other studies have tried other probiotics in the prevention of sepsis, but have not been successful. Probiotics that did not work work in other studies were Streptococcus thermophilus, Bifidobacterium infantis, Bifidobacterium lactis, and Bifidobacterium breve. However, they did not also use prebiotic supplements (the FOS) - just the probiotic alone - and studied premature or low birth weight babies (while this study focused on healthy babies of approximately normal weight.) This is why research now needs to be done looking at other groups of babies. From Medical Xpress:

Study shows probiotics can prevent sepsis in infants

A research team at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health has determined that a special mixture of good bacteria in the body reduced the incidence of sepsis in infants in India by 40 percent at a cost of only $1 per infant...... The special mixture included a probiotic called Lactobacillus plantarum ATCC-202195 combined with fructo-oligosaccharide (FOS), an oral synbiotic preparation developed by Dr. Panigrahi.

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system. Synbiotics are combinations of probiotics with an FOS supplement that promotes growth and sustains colonization of the probiotic strain. FOS, naturally found in breast milk and such plants as onion, chicory, garlic, asparagus, banana, artichoke and others, is food for the probiotic bacteria.

Sepsis is a severe complication of bacterial infection that results in around one million infant deaths worldwide each year, mostly in developing countries. It occurs when the immune system stops fighting germs and begins to turn on itself and can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and death. It is estimated that 40 percent of patients with severe sepsis in developing countries do not survive.

The team enrolled more than 4,500 newborns from 149 villages in the Indian province of Odisha and followed them for their first 60 days, the most critical period when they get sick and die. During their first days of life, the newborns were administered the oral preparation for seven days. Results of the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study showed that sepsis and deaths in the first two months of infancy were reduced by 40 percent, more than twice the anticipated reduction of 20 percent. The synbiotic treatment also lowered respiratory tract infections. The effectiveness demonstrated in Dr. Panigrahi's study was so successful the study was halted early. 

An interesting article about this research from The Atlantic: At Last, a Big, Successful Trial of Probiotics

Amazing if this holds up in larger studies - a treatment for peanut allergy! As the researchers said -  the treatment (2 grams of peanut protein plus a specific strain of the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus daily for 18 months) provided "persistent suppression of the allergic immune response to peanuts 4 years" after the treatment had ended This was a nicely done multi-year study in children - a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial (to eliminate biases).

The researchers also wrote in the Discussion section of the study: "PPOIT [combined probiotic and peanut oral immunotherapy] was associated with long-lasting peanut tolerance 4 years after stopping treatment. Two-thirds of PPOIT treated participants were able to continue regular peanut ingestion, and more than half were ingesting moderate to-large amounts of peanut on a regular basis, compared with only one (4%) of 24 placebo-treated participants. Allergic reactions from intentional peanut ingestion were uncommon and all reactions were mild, suggesting that those who achieved PPOIT-induced sustained unresponsiveness can safely continue peanut ingestion." In other words - WOW! (Other posts on peanut allergies - here and here, and earlier progress report of this study.) From Medical Xpress:

Australian researchers in peanut allergy breakthrough

Australian researchers have reported a major breakthrough in the relief of deadly peanut allergy with the discovery of a long-lasting treatment they say offers hope that a cure will soon be possible. In clinical trials conducted by scientists at Melbourne's Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, children with peanut allergies were given a probiotic along with small doses of a peanut protein over an 18-month period. When the experiment ended in 2013 some 80 percent of the kids were able to tolerate peanutsThe research, published Wednesday in medical journal The Lancet, found that four years on, about 70 percent could still eat peanuts without an adverse reaction.

"The importance of this finding is that these children were able to eat peanuts like children who don't have peanut allergy and still maintain their tolerant state, protected against reactions to peanut," lead researcher Mimi Tang said. "These findings suggest our treatment is effective at inducing long-term tolerance, up to four years after completing treatment, and is safe. Food allergy affects one in 20 children and about two in 100 adults, with seafood, cow's milk, eggs and peanuts among the most typical triggers. Peanuts are one of the most common foods to cause anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal allergic reaction.

The researchers said the Murdoch study provides the "strongest evidence yet that a cure may be possible for peanut allergy"..... Ten-year-old Olivia May suffered a reaction when she tried to eat a peanut butter sandwich seven years ago. "We visited the allergist the first time [and] he said 'sorry, you're going to have to go home and empty your pantry out, clear it of all nuts, anything with nuts in it'," Oliver's mother Tanya told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. But after taking part in the trial, Oliva no longer suffers from her allergy.

Fifty-six children completed the study, with half receiving a placebo and half receiving the treatment, which encourages the immune system to develop a tolerance to the allergy. Researchers are now aiming to confirm the results with a larger study of the treatment they say "holds important implications for attacking the modern food allergy epidemic". [Original study.]

Could probiotics be used to treat depression? The medical site Medscape reported on a very small preliminary study (only 10 people) that tested that idea, with findings that suggested that taking certain probiotics does help treat the symptoms of mild to moderate depression. The bacteria taken were Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum (in the product Probio'Stick). Specifically, the symptoms of mood, anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure), and sleep disturbance were significantly reduced after probiotoc therapy.

Sounds great, yes? But ....just a few months ago a much larger study was published where people were randomly assigned to either a placebo group or the treatment group (the same 2 probiotics: Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum). It was also "double-blind" - so no one knew who got the placebo or the treatment. And here the results were: the probiotics did NOT help the depression symptoms. This study found "no evidence that the probiotic formulation is effective in treating low mood, or in moderating the levels of inflammatory and other biomarkers".

Why the different results? Maybe the "placebo effect" was why the 10 person study had a positive effect. Wanting and thinking something works can definitely influence results. (This is why ideally studies are double-blind, randomized, and with a placebo.) Or was it because the study was done "in association" with the manufacturers of Probio'Stick? Yup, it's not surprising the manufacturer of a product finds a "positive effect" from its product. Bottom line: Be careful and critical when reading "study results".

However, after saying all that - there is a "gut-brain axis" in humans, and some researchers are examining whether probiotics can treat various symptoms such as anxiety (here and here). So perhaps some other probiotic bacteria might work to treat depression.

The problematic study from Medscape: Probiotics Promising for Mild to Moderate Depression

Probiotics may be effective in reducing core depressive symptoms in treatment-naive patients with a mild to moderate form of the disorder, results of a new pilot study suggest. Investigators led by Caroline Wallace, PhD candidate, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, found that symptoms of mood, anhedonia, and sleep disturbance were significantly reduced with probiotic therapy after just 4 weeks, with results maintained at 8 weeks..... The hypothesis is that the effects are mediated via the gut-brain axis by reducing inflammation and increasing serotonin levels.

To assess the efficacy of probiotics in treatment-naive patients with depression, the researchers carried out a pilot study using Probio'Stick, a probiotic supplement that combines two different strains known to act on the gut-brain axis ― Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175. The 8-week, single-arm, open-label intervention pilot study involved 10 treatment-naive patients with major depressive disorder who were experiencing a current episode of depression..... Next steps will be to confirm these findings in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of Probio'Stick. 

Same probiotic bacteria, but no effect from the treatment. From The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum for the symptoms of depression.

No significant difference was found between the probiotic and placebo groups on any psychological outcome measure or any blood-based biomarker.

This study found no evidence that the probiotic formulation is effective in treating low mood, or in moderating the levels of inflammatory and other biomarkers. The lack of observed effect on mood symptoms may be due to the severity, chronicity or treatment resistance of the sample; recruiting an antidepressant-naive sample experiencing mild, acute symptoms of low mood, may well yield a different result. Future studies taking a preventative approach or using probiotics as an adjuvant treatment may also be more effective. Vitamin D levels should be monitored in future studies in the area. The results of this trial are preliminary; future studies in the area should not be discouraged.

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An amazing new study is about to start in Sweden - this study will see if "snot transplants" work for the treatment for chronic sinusitis! Will this turn out to be a permanent treatment? While studies show that probiotic supplements tend not to stick around in the gut (they're gone after about a week), people receiving a fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) find that these microbial communities do stick around (colonize).  So there is something about getting an entire microbial community (bacteria, fungi, viruses) that is more effective than just a few species that are in typical probiotic supplements.

We have found the same problem in sinusitis treatment - the Lactobacillus sakei treatment works to treat sinusitis, but then doesn't stick around - as evidenced by having to treat again after a cold or sore throat.  And so we treat again - and again it's successful. And this happens again and again. Sooo.... it's important to find out if a transplant of the entire microbial community of snot (the sinonasal microbiome) works. And if works, will the treatment be a permanent one? I also wonder.... Several people have mentioned this idea to me, but has anyone with sinusitis tried a "snot transplant" at home? (And yes, this is self-experimentation.)

The description and purpose of the study refer to what this site has discussed for several years: the sinus microbiome is out of whack (dysbiosis) in chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS), whether due to antibiotics or something else (viruses, etc). The study will enroll 30 people, start May 15, 2017, and end December 31, 2018. The purpose of the study is to have patients with chronic rhinosinusits without nasal polyps (CRSsNP) receive microbiome transplants from healthy donors without any sinus problems. They would receive a snot transplant for 5 days in a row. Unfortunately we'll have to wait at least 1 1/2 years for any results. Excerpts from clinical trails.gov:

Sinonasal Microbiome Transplant as a Therapy for Chronic Rhinosinusitis Without Nasal Polyps (CRSsNP)

Purpose: Chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) is a disease associated with impaired quality of life and substantial societal costs. Though sometimes co-appearing with other conditions, such as asthma, allergy, and nasal polyps, many cases present without co-morbidities. Micro-biological diagnostic procedures are frequently undertaken, but the results are often inconclusive. Nevertheless, antibiotics are usually prescribed, but invariably with limited and temporary success. Accordingly, there is a need for new treatments for CRS.

Recent studies indicate that the sinuses are colonized by a commensal microbiome of bacteria and that damage to this natural microbiome, by pathogens or antibiotics, may cause an imbalance that may promote CRS. Therefore, treatments that restore the commensal microbiome may offer an alternative to current protocols. Arguably, as suggested by studies on patients with intestinal infections (next paragraph), one such possibility may be to transfer a "normal microbiome" to patients with CRS.

A disrupted microbiome is linked to intestinal clostridium difficile infections. Probiotic restitution therapy may be effective even in cases recalcitrant to antibiotic treatment. However, a key to effective probiotic restitution is selecting the bacteria that facilitate regrowth of normal microbiome. As an answer to this, researchers have chosen to simply transplant the entire microbiome from a healthy donor. In the case of clostridium difficile infection in the form of faecal transplants.

In this study, we will examine the possibility to treat patients with chronic rhinosinusitis without polyps (CRSsNP) with complete sinonasal microbiomes obtained from healthy donors. Our analysis will focus on symptoms and signs of disease as well as on nasal inflammatory and microbiological indices.

Detailed DescriptionOver the last few years the theory of a damaged microbiome as a cause or promoting factor behind chronic rhinosinusitis has gained increasing interest from the scientific community. A number of studies aimed at investigating the microbiota of the nose and paranasal sinuses in health and disease has been published with very varying outcomes. Furthermore, other studies have been aimed at probiotic treatment of sinonasal disease either locally or through immunologic manipulation via the gastrointestinal microbiota.

A problem common to all these studies is that studies examining the normal nasal microbiota have identified a great amount of different bacterial species. It is as of today not known which individual species or combinations of species that promotes health

In this study the investigators aim at recruiting patients suffering from chronic rhinosinusitis without polyps (CRSsNP) and healthy participants without any history sinonasal disease. The patients and the healthy participants will be examined for infectious diseases in a manner similar to other medical transplant procedures to minimize the risk for the recipients. The patients will then be treated with antibiotics to reduce the bacterial load of the nose and the paranasal sinuses. After the patient has finished the antibiotic treatment a microbiome transplant will be harvested from the healthy participant as a nasal lavage. The raw lavage fluid will then be used to transplant the microbiome to the patient. The procedure will be repeated for five consecutive daysThe outcome measures analysed will focus on subjective sinonasal health and symptoms of the patients but also include nasal inflammatory and microbiological indices.

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Last week a person told an amazing story in the comments section after a post on this site. After suffering from a "constant runny nose and a bad smell" in the nose for 2 years - which was diagnosed as "fungi and staph" in the sinuses - the person started doing "kimchi treatments" (as discussed in the Sinusitis Treatment Summary page). After 2 weeks a fungal ball was loosened, which came out of the sinuses and into the mouth, and was then spit out. About an inch in size - a smelly, grey/green, round fungal ball. Wow. Which leads to the question: Are any of the microbes in live kimchi anti-fungal?

Kimchi is an amazing live fermented food, typically made with cabbage and other vegetables and a variety of seasonings. Kimchi is the national dish of Korea and so there is tremendous interest in Korea in studying kimchi to learn about the many different microbial species in kimchi, including how they change over the course of fermentation. It turns out that kimchi contains many species of bacteria, including various species of Lactobacillus - which are considered beneficial. Of course one of the species found in kimchi over the course of fermentation is Lactobacillus sakei - the bacteria that successfully treats sinusitis, and which I have written about extensively. L. sakei predominates over pathogenic bacteria (antibacterial) - which is why it is also used as a sausage starter culture (to kill off bacteria such as Listeria). One study found that the garlic, ginger, and leek used in making kimchi were the sources of L. sakei bacteria found in fermented kimchi.

Studies show that a number of the Lactobacillus species found in kimchi are antifungal against a number of different kinds of fungi.  Some of these antifungal bacteria are: Lactobacillus plantarum, L. cruvatus, L. lactis, L. casei, L. pentosus, L. acidophilus, and L. sakei (here, here.

A study from 2005 found that some Lactobacillus species found in kimchi are predominant over a fungi known to cause health problems in humans - Aspergillus fumigatus, a mold (fungi) which is the most common cause of Aspergillus infections. Aspergillus (of which there are many species) is very common both indoors and outdoors (on plants, soil, rotting plants, household dust, etc.), so people typically breathe in these fungal spores daily and without any negative effects. However, sometimes Aspergillus can cause allergic reactions, infections in the lungs and sinuses (including fungal balls), and other infections. (more information at CDC site). The study found that 5 bacterial species in kimchi were also antifungal against other species of fungi (Aspergillus flavus, Fusarium moniliforme, Penicillium commune, and Rhizopus oryzae). The 5 bacterial species in kimchi that they found to be antifungal were: Lactobacillus cruvatus, L. lactis subsp. lactis, L. casei, L. pentosus, and L. sakei.

Just keep in mind that fungi are everywhere around us, and even part of the microbes that live in and on us - this is our mycobiome (here and here). We also breathe in a variety of fungi (mold spores) every day. In healthy individuals (even babies) all the microbes (bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc) live in balanced microbial communities, but the communities can become "out of whack" (dysbiosis) for various reasons, and microbes that formerly co-existed peacefully can multiply and become problematic.  If the populations get too unbalanced (e.g., antibiotics can kill off bacteria, and then an increase in fungi populations take their place) then ordinarily non-harmful fungi can become pathogenic. Or other pathogenic microbes can enter the community (e.g., through infection), and the person becomes ill.

IN SUMMARY: Kimchi has beneficial bacteria in it that are effective not just against bacteria (antibacterial), but also against some kinds of fungi (antifungal). One 2016 review study went so far as to say: "Kimchi possesses anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidant, anticancer, antiobesity, probiotic properties, cholesterol reduction, and antiaging properties." Experiences of my family and people writing suggest that the L. sakei in kimchi (and other products) is also antibiofilm. Hopefully, there will be some research on this in the future. But in the meantime, please keep writing to me about fungal complications of sinusitis, and especially if kimchi, L. sakei products, or other probiotics helped.

Could this be true? Probiotics for seasonal allergies? A study by Univ. of Florida researchers reported that taking a combination probiotic of Lactobacillus gasseri, Bifidobacterium bifidum, and Bifidobacterium longum (sold as Kyo-Dophilus) for 8 weeks during spring allergy season resulted in an improvement in seasonal allergy symptoms. It must be noted that the people participating had mild seasonal allergies, not severe allergies. While they reported overall allergy symptom improvement, there was no significant improvement with eye symptoms. Too bad, because for those suffering from itchy eyes, it is a symptom that causes anguish during allergy season.

All participants had their stool (fecal) samples tested (with modern genetic sequencing) and it was found that the group taking the probiotic supplements had a beneficial shift in their overall microorganisms in the gut - with some bacteria such as Escherichia coli decreasing and the very beneficial and anti-inflammatory bacteria Faecalibacterium prausnitzii increasing. (See posts here and here on F. prausnitzii.) What was really good about the study was that it was a "double-blind, randomized clinical trial", meaning that people were randomly  assigned to the probiotic treatment or placebo group, and no one knew who was getting a placebo or the probiotic until the end of the study. The researchers say that why the probiotics improved allergy symptoms is s till not clear, but they have some theories. From Science Daily:

Allergies? Probiotic combination may curb your symptoms, new study finds

As we head into allergy season, you may feel less likely to grab a hanky and sneeze. That's because new University of Florida research shows a probiotic combination might help reduce hay fever symptoms, if it's taken during allergy season. Many published studies have shown a probiotic's ability to regulate the body's immune response to allergies, but not all of the probiotics show a benefit, UF researchers say. Scientists already know that the probiotic combination of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, sold as Kyo-Dophilus in stores, helps maintain digestive health and parts of the immune system. They suspect that probiotics might work by increasing the human body's percentage of regulatory T-cells, which in turn might increase tolerance to hay fever symptoms.

UF researchers wanted to know if the components in this combination probiotic would help alleviate allergy symptoms. To do that, they enrolled 173 healthy adults who said they suffered seasonal allergies and randomly split them into two groups: Some took the combination probiotic; others took a placebo. Each week during the eight-week experiment, participants responded to an online survey to convey their discomfort level. Scientists also analyzed DNA from participants' stool samples to determine how their bacteria changed, because probiotics aim to deliver good bacteria to the human's intestinal system.

Participants who took the probiotic reported improvements in quality of life, compared to those taking the placebo, the study showed. For example, participants suffered fewer allergy-related nose symptoms, which meant that they were less troubled during daily activities. Researchers note that this study did not include severe allergy sufferers. But the combination of probiotics showed clinical benefit for those with more mild seasonal allergies, Langkamp-Henken said. [Original study.]

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People assume that taking probiotics results in the beneficial probiotic bacteria colonizing and living in the gut (or sinuses when using L. sakei). It is common to hear the phrase "take probiotics to repopulate the gut" or "improve the gut microbes". The human gut microbiota (human gut microbiome) refers to all the microbes that reside inside the gut (hundreds of species). Probiotics are live bacteria, that when taken or administered, result in a health benefit. But what does the evidence say?

First, it is important to realize that currently supplements and foods contain only a small variety of probiotic species, with some Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species among the most common. But they are not the most common bacteria found in the gut. And very important bacteria such as Faecalibacterium prausnitzii (a reduction of which is associated with a number of diseases) are not available at all in supplements. One problem is the F. prausnitzii are "oxygen sensitive" and they die within minutes upon exposure to air, a big problem when trying to produce supplements.

The evidence from the last 4 years  of L. sakei use for sinusitis treatment is that for some reason, the L. sakei is not sticking around and colonizing in the sinuses. My family's experiences and the experience of other people contacting me is that every time a person becomes sick with a cold or sore throat, it once again results in sinusitis, and then another treatment with a L. sakei product is needed to treat the sinusitis. And of course this has been a surprise and a big disappointment.

The same appears to be true for probiotics (whether added to a food or in a supplement) that are taken for other reasons, including intestinal health. Study after study, and a review article, finds that the beneficial bacteria do not colonize in the gut even if there are health benefits from the probiotics. That is, there may be definite health benefits from the bacteria, but within days of stopping the probiotic (whether in a food or a supplement) it is no longer found in the gut. Researchers know this because they can see what bacteria are in the gut by analyzing (using modern genetic sequencing tests) what is in the fecal matter (the stool).

However, the one exception to all of the above is a fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) - which is transfer of fecal matter from one person to another. There the transplanted microbes of the donor do colonize the recipient's gut, referred to as "engraftment of microbes". Some researchers found that viruses in the fecal matter helped with the engraftment. So it looks like more than just some bacterial strains are involved. Another thing to remember is that study after study finds that dietary changes result in microbial changes in the gut, and these changes can occur very quickly.

From Gut Microbiota News Watch: Learning what happens between a probiotic input and a health output

What scientists know is that probiotics in healthy individuals are associated with a number of benefits. Meta-analyses of randomized, controlled trials show that probiotics help prevent upper respiratory tract infections, urinary tract infections, allergy, and cardiovascular disease risk in adults. But between the input and the output, what happens? A common assumption is that probiotics work by influencing the gut microbe community, leading to an increase in the diversity of bacterial species in the gut ecosystem and measurable excretion in the stool.

But this theory doesn’t seem to be true, according to a recently published systematic review by Kristensen and colleagues in Genome Medicine. Authors of the review analyzed seven studies and found no evidence that probiotics have the ability to change fecal microbiota composition. So even though individuals in the different studies were ingesting live bacterial species, the bacteria didn’t stick around to increase the diversity of the gut fecal microbiota.

Do probiotics alter the fecal composition of healthy adults? The answer seems to be no,” says Dr. Mary Ellen Sanders, Executive Science Officer for the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP)....Dr. Dan Merenstein, Research Division Director and Associate Professor of Family Medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, DC (USA), agrees. “Initially when probiotics were studied, some people expected to see permanent colonization. We now realize that is unlikely to occur,” he says. “This study shows that the probiotics tested to date do not result in overarching bacterial community structure changes in healthy subjects. But clinical effects are clearly demonstrated for probiotics, and likely some are mediated by microbiome changes.

At issue, then, is not what probiotics do for healthy individuals, but exactly how they work: the so-called ‘mechanism’. Sanders, who described some alternative mechanisms in her BMC Medicine commentary about the Kristensen review, points out a logical error in news stories worldwide that covered the article: the assumption that if probiotics fail to change the microbiota composition, they fail to have any health effects. Sanders emphasizes that probiotics might work in many possible ways. “Probiotics may act through changing the function of the resident microbes, not their composition. They may interact with host immune cells,” she says. “They may inhibit opportunistic pathogens that are not dominant members of the microbiota. They may promote microbiota stability… .” 

What exactly are the differences between people with chronic sinusitis and those who are healthy and don't get sinusitis? I've written many times about the Abreu et al 2012 study that found that not only do chronic sinusitis sufferers lack L. sakei, they have too much of Corynebacterium tuberculostearicum (normally a harmless skin bacteria), and they also don't have the bacteria diversity in their sinuses that healthy people without sinusitis have. In other words, the sinus microbiome (microbial community) is out of whack (dysbiosis). A number of studies found that there is a depletion of some bacterial species, and an increase in "abundance" of other species in those with chronic sinusitis.

Now a new analysis of 11 recent studies comparing people with chronic sinusitis to healthy people adds some additional information. Once again a conclusion was that those with sinusitis had "dysbiosis" (microbial communities out of whack) in their sinus microbiomes when compared to healthy people. And that an increased "abundance" of members of the genus Corynebacterium in the sinuses was associated with chronic sinusitis (studies so far point to C. tuberculostearicum and C. accolens). Nothing new there... But what was new was that they found that bacteria of the genus Burkholderia and Propionibacterium seem to be "gatekeepers", whose presence may be important in maintaining a stable and healthy bacterial community in the sinuses. And that in chronic sinusitis the bacterial network of healthy communities is "fragmented". In other words, when a person is healthy, the community of microbes in the sinuses may provide a protective effect, and if the gatekeepers are removed (e.g., during illnesses or after taking antibiotics), then a "cycle of dysbiosis and inflammation" may begin.

PLEASE NOTE: Genus is a taxonomic category ranking used in biological classification that is below a family and above a species level. For example, Lactobacillus is the genus and sakei is the species. Also, the researchers discussed "gatekeepers" as being important for sinus health, while Susan Lynch discusses the importance of "keystone species" for sinus health.

OK... so which species of Burkholderia and Propionibacterium bacteria are found in the healthy microbiome? Unfortunately that was not answered in this study. And of course this needs to be tested further to see if the addition of the missing species of Burkholderia and Propionibacterium bacteria to the sinus microbiome will treat chronic sinusitis. Or perhaps other bacteria such as L. sakei and someother still unknown bacteria also need to be added to the mix.

Both Burkholderia and Propionibacterium have many species, but I have not seen any in probiotics. Species of Propionibacteria can be found all over the body and are generally nonpathogenic. However, P. acnes can cause the common skin condition acne as well as other infections. One species - Propionibacterium freudenreichii (or P. shermanii)  - is found in Swiss type cheeses such as Emmental, Jarlsberg, and Leerdammer. Propionibacteria species are commonly found in milk and dairy products, though they have also been extracted from soil. There are many Burkholderia species, with a number of them causing illness (e.g., B. mallei and B. pseudomallei), but also beneficial species, such as those involved with plant growth and healthBurkholderia species are found all over, in the soil, in plants, soil, water (including marine water), rhizosphere, animals and humans. At this point it is unclear to me which are the species found in healthy sinuses.

But it is clear that while L. sakei works to treat chronic sinusitis in many people, the fact that L. sakei typically has to be used after each illness (cold, sore throat, etc,) means that the sinus microbiome may still be missing microbial species or that there is still some sort of "imbalance" (even though the person may feel totally healthy). The researchers noted that a variety of fungi and viruses are also part of a normal sinus microbiome, but they weren't discussed in the article. As you can see, much is still unknown. Stay tuned..,..

This was a very technical article - thus not easy to read. Keep in mind that the information about the conclusions about the bacteria species in the sinuses was from studies that used modern genetic sequencing data (16S rRNA sequence data) to determine what bacteria are in the sinuses. (These are called "culture independent technologies" and much, much better than using cultures in determining species of bacteria.) This way they could analyze differences in "sinonasal bacterial community composition" and see differences between healthy people and persons with CRS (chronic rhinosinusitis).

Excerpts from Environmental Microbiology: Bacterial community collapse: a meta-analysis of the sinonasal microbiota in chronic rhinosinusitis

Chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) is a common, debilitating condition characterized by long-term inflammation of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses. The role of the sinonasal bacteria in CRS is unclear. We conducted a meta-analysis combining and reanalysing published bacterial 16S rRNA sequence data to explore differences in sinonasal bacterial community composition and predicted function between healthy and CRS affected subjects. The results identify the most abundant bacteria across all subjects as Staphylococcus, Propionibacterium, Corynebacterium, Streptococcus and an unclassified lineage of Actinobacteria.

The meta-analysis results suggest that the bacterial community associated with CRS patients is dysbiotic and ecological networks fostering healthy communities are fragmented. Increased dispersion of bacterial communities, significantly lower bacterial diversity, and increased abundance of members of the genus Corynebacterium are associated with CRS. Increased relative abundance and diversity of other members belonging to the phylum Actinobacteria and members from the genera Propionibacterium differentiated healthy sinuses from those that were chronically inflamed. Removal of Burkholderia and Propionibacterium phylotypes from the healthy community dataset was correlated with a significant increase in network fragmentation. This meta-analysis highlights the potential importance of the genera Burkholderia and Propionibacterium as gatekeepers, whose presence may be important in maintaining a stable sinonasal bacterial community.

The high density and diversity of host-associated microbial communities present in different body sites supports a near infinite number of potential host to microbe, and microbe to microbe interactions. A stable network of microbial interactions, established through processes such as niche competition, nutrient cycling, immune evasion, and biofilm formation help maintain homeostasis during health (Walter and Ley, 2011; Grice et al., 2009). Taxa that hold together the bacterial community by interacting with different parts of the network can be considered “gatekeepers” (sensu Freeman, 1980; Widder et al., 2014). During health, a consortium of microbes may provide a protective effect, and a breakdown in these networks due to the removal of gatekeepers may begin a self-perpetuating cycle of dysbiosis and inflammation (Vujkovic-Cvijin et al., 2013; Widder et al., 2014; Byrd and Segre, 2016).

The genus-level phylotype Corynebacterium was again associated with CRS bacterial communities, and Burkholderia was associated with healthy subjects.

In contrast to the variety of Actinobacteria and Betaproteobacteria phylotypes differentiating the healthy sinonasal bacterial communities, only one phylotype (Corynebacterium) was consistently associated with those individuals that were chronically inflamed. The significance of specific members of the genus Corynebacterium in CRS microbial communities is supported by findings in two previous studies (Abreu et al., 2012; Aurora et al., 2013). The relative abundance of C. tuberculostearicum and C. accolens was significantly higher in subjects with CRS in two recent 16S rRNA studies (Abreu et al., 2012 and Aurora et al., 2013, respectively). 

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As you may have noticed, I write about the beneficial bacteria Lactobacillus sakei a lot. This is because it has turned out to be a great treatment for both chronic and acute sinusitis for my family and others (see post The One Probiotic That Treats Sinusitis). We originally found it in kimchi (it occurs in the kimchi during normal fermentation), but not all kimchi brands. Kimchi is a mix of vegetables (including typically cabbage) and seasonings, which is then fermented for days or weeks before it is eaten.

Why is L. sakei found in some kimchi, but not all? Which vegetable or spice is needed or important for encouraging L. sakei growth? It turns out it is not the cabbage - which is why L. sakei is not found in sauerkraut. A recent study looking at several kimchi samples found that garlic seems to be important for the development of various Lactobacillus bacteria, of which L. sakei is one. The results mean that raw garlic has very low levels of L. sakei, and it multiplies during kimchi fermentation. Note that as fermentation progresses, the bacterial species composition in the kimchi changes (this is called ecological succession). Korean studies (here and here) have consistently found L. sakei in many brands of kimchi (especially from about day 14 to about 2 or 2 1/2 months of fermentation), but not all kimchi brands or recipes. L.sakei, of which there are many strains, is so beneficial because it "outcompetes other spoilage- or disease-causing microorganisms" and so prevents them from growing (see post).

Excerpts are from the blog site Microbial Menagerie: MICROBES AT WORK IN YOUR KIMCHI

Cabbage is chopped up into large pieces and soaked in salt water allowing the water to draw out from the cabbage. Other seasonings such as spices, herbs and aromatics are prepared. Ginger, onion, garlic, and chili pepper are commonly used. The seasonings and cabbage are mixed together. Now the kimchi is ready to ferment. The mixture is packed down in a glass container and covered with the brining liquid if needed. The kimchi sits at room temperature for 1-2 days for fermentation to take place....Kimchi does not use a starter culture, but is still able to ferment. Then where do the fermentation microbes come from?

Phylogenetic analysis based on 16S rRNA sequencing indicates that the kimchi microbiome is dominated by lactic acid bacteria (LAB) of the genus Leuconostoc, Lactobacillus, and Weissella. Kimchi relies on the native microbes of the ingredients. That is, the microbes naturally found on the ingredients. Because of this, there may be wide variations in the taste and texture of the final kimchi product depending on the source of the ingredients. In fact, a research group from Chung-Ang University acquired the same ingredients from different markets and sampled the bacterial communities within each of the ingredients. The group found a wide variability in the same ingredient when it was bought from different markets. Surprisingly, the cabbage was not the primary source of LAB. Instead, Lactic acid bacteria was found in high abundance in the garlic samples

Note that Lactobacillus sakei is an example of a lactic acid bacteria. More study details from  the Journal of Food Science: Source Tracking and Succession of Kimchi Lactic Acid Bacteria during Fermentation.

This study aimed at evaluating raw materials as potential lactic acid bacteria (LAB) sources for kimchi fermentation and investigating LAB successions during fermentation. The bacterial abundances and communities of five different sets of raw materials were investigated using plate-counting and pyrosequencing. LAB were found to be highly abundant in all garlic samples, suggesting that garlic may be a major LAB source for kimchi fermentation. LAB were observed in three and two out of five ginger and leek samples, respectively, indicating that they can also be potential important LAB sources. LAB were identified in only one cabbage sample with low abundance, suggesting that cabbage may not be an important LAB source.

Bacterial successions during fermentation in the five kimchi samples were investigated by community analysis using pyrosequencing. LAB communities in initial kimchi were similar to the combined LAB communities of individual raw materials, suggesting that kimchi LAB were derived from their raw materials. LAB community analyses showed that species in the genera Leuconostoc, Lactobacillus, and Weissella were key players in kimchi fermentation, but their successions during fermentation varied with the species, indicating that members of the key genera may have different acid tolerance or growth competitiveness depending on their respective species.

Although W. koreensis, Leu. mesenteroides, and Lb. sakei were not detected in the raw materials of kimchi samples D and E (indicating their very low abundances in raw materials), they were found to be predominant during the late fermentation period. Several previous studies have also reported that W. koreensis, Leu. mesenteroides, and L. sakei are the predominant kimchi LAB during fermentation (Jeong and others 2013a, 2013b; Jung and others 2011, 2012, 2013a, 2014).