Public Release: 

Probiotic good bugs may control gut infections

Microbiology Society

Probiotics, the friendly bacteria beloved of yoghurt advertisers, may be an effective substitute for growth promoting antibiotics in pigs, giving us safer pork products, according to scientists speaking today (Wednesday 5 September 2007) at the Society for General Microbiology's 161st Meeting at the University of Edinburgh, UK, which runs from 3-6 September 2007.

Scientists from the UK's Veterinary Laboratories Agency in Weybridge, Surrey have shown that probiotics - the good bacteria taken by millions of people worldwide - can reduce the disease-causing Salmonella bacteria which infect people and pigs.

"Salmonella is responsible for thousands of food poisoning cases each year with many of the cases originating from infected pork products. Recently the European Union banned the use of antibiotics in animal feed. Antibiotics were being regularly used as growth promoters to make pigs put on weight and protect them from diseases", says James Collins from the Veterinary Laboratories Agency.

"The EU ban is part of the effort to reduce the emergence of new antibiotic resistant bacteria, particularly as many disease-causing and antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as MRSA and clostridia are now so common", says James Collins.

The scientists have also managed to advance the use of alternatives in animal testing by developing a technique based on NASA space technology, which allowed them to grow small pieces of pig gut in a 3-dimensional matrix which mimics the natural environment in a pig's gut.

"The 3D model specifically allows us to test the potential health benefits of probiotics as viable alternatives to growth promoters in pigs", says James Collins. "This model is an essential first step as an alternative to the use of animals in scientific research, and means that we did not need to do the work in live pigs".

The work by the Surrey team will contribute to reducing the number of pigs carrying Salmonella, and so cut its general spread in the environment. This in turn is expected to reduce the number of Salmonella related food poisoning cases reported every year.

The scientists have not yet discovered exactly how the probiotics work, but they hope that their new model will uncover the mechanism behind the way probiotics reduce pathogens in the gut and confer other health benefits.

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Notes to News Editors:
For further information contact Mr James Collins, Department of Food and Environmental Safety, Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Surrey tel: 01932 357868, fax: 01932 357595, email: J.Collins@vla.defra.gsi.gov.uk

Mr Collins is presenting the paper 'Lactobacillus plantarum reduces S. typhimurium invasion in a novel 3d porcine jejunum model' at 1540 on Wednesday 05 September 2007 in the Microbial Infection Group session of the 161st Meeting of the Society for General Microbiology at the University of Edinburgh, 03 - 06 September 2007.

For press enquiries during the meeting please contact the SGM desk on +44 (0) 131 650 4581 or mobile telephone +44 (0) 7824 88 30 10

For enquiries prior to the meeting contact Lucy Goodchild at the SGM office, tel: +44 (0) 118 988 1843, fax: +44 (0) 118 988 5656, email: l.goodchild@sgm.ac.uk

Full programme details of this meeting can be found on the Society's website at: http://www.sgm.ac.uk/meetings/MTGPAGES/Edinburgh07.cfm. Hard copies are available on request from the SGM.

The Society for General Microbiology is the largest microbiology society in Europe, and has over 5,500 members worldwide. The Society provides a common meeting ground for scientists working in research and in fields with applications in microbiology including medicine, veterinary medicine, pharmaceuticals, industry, agriculture, food, the environment and education.

The SGM represents the science and profession of microbiology to government, the media and the general public; supporting microbiology education at all levels; and encouraging careers in microbiology.

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