Probiotics are ubiquitous, consumption by the general public is common, and the dogma remains that they are beneficial for general and gut health. However, evolving evidence suggests a potentially “harmful” impact of many commercially available probiotics. There is also significant variability in formulations that leads to a lack of a universally acceptable definition of probiotics. In this perspective, we review the flaws with definition, relevant observational and randomized studies that showed both positive and negative impacts on health and disease, unbiased interpretation of key trials, emerging evidence from microbiome and immuno-oncological studies, and impact on systemic immunity. We propose that caution be exercised prior to endorsements of their illness-directed consumption and rampant general usage. As a deeper understanding of the human microbiome accrues and our ability to manipulate this complex ecosystem improves, the probiotic of tomorrow might be the precision tool that deals with diseases on a broad front. Gut microbiome, akin to fingerprints, is indigenous to an individual and ‘one size fits all’ prescription strategy should be discouraged until a more universally acceptable ‘favorable taxa’ or a ‘personalized probiotic,’ to complement an individual’s native microbiota, gets fashioned.
Abid, M. B., & Koh, C. J. (2019, December 1). Probiotics in health and disease: fooling Mother Nature? Infection. Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/s15010-019-01351-0