There’s lots of information in recent medical news, about how probiotics lend themselves to gut health. A new study, conducted by scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, adds to the growing body of evidence about the power of probiotics. The study found that the “good bacterium” commonly found in probiotic digestive supplements, helps to eliminate a type of bad bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus).  Staph infections can cause serious antibiotic resistant infections—known to add to the statistics of older people and children who die from infections every year.

The Study

The new study, unexpectantly discovered that the Bacillus bacteria had prevented S. aureus bacteria from growing in the nose (and in the gut) of healthy people. This “good bacterium,” found in supplements for the digestive system, was found to prevent serious antibiotic-resistant infections.  The researchers, from Mahidol University and Rajamangala University of Technology, in Thailand, found by using mouse study models, they could distinguish, exactly how this process occurs.

NIAID Director, Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. said, “Probiotics frequently are recommended as dietary supplements to improve digestive health.  This is one of the first studies to describe precisely how they may work to provide health benefits. The possibility that oral Bacillus might be an effective alternative to antibiotic treatment for some conditions is scientifically intriguing and definitely worthy of further exploration.”

What are Staph Infections?

Staphylococcus infections, literally, cause thousands of deaths around the globe each year.  Small children and elderly people are particularly susceptible due to a weak immune system.  In a hospital (or nursing home) setting, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is a common cause of serious illness.   Another illness caused by bacteria, is S. aureus, which is less commonly known, but can live in the nose and the gut without causing any problems to its host.  However, when the skin is broken down, or the immune system gets compromised (by an illness, such as cancer), these bacteria can cause serious infections.

In the study, 200 volunteers were observed from rural Thailand.  The researchers examined fecal samples for bacteria that aligned with the absence of S. aureus.  They found 25 positives for gut S. aureus and 26 people positive for nose S. aureus.   They also discovered a system that the mice had developed to fight off S. aureus, via a specific type of good bacteria, called Bacillus—which are ingested naturally with vegetables.   The scientists also developed a method of reducing a type of MRSA—the type that causes the highest number of infections in the U.S.  


Next, the scientists plan to implement a larger study, to find out if hospital acquired MRSA rates can be reduced by using the probiotic regimen used in the mice studies.

Michael Otto, Ph.D., the NIAID lead investigator, says, “Ultimately, we hope to determine if a simple probiotic regimen can be used to reduce MRSA infection rates in hospitals.”


The Journal Nature: