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Benef Microbes. 2017 Oct 13;8(5):739-754. doi: 10.3920/BM2017.0032. Epub 2017 Sep 8.

Is there a role for modified probiotics as beneficial microbes: a systematic review of the literature.

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1 CARE Program, 1702 College Plaza, 8215 112 St NW Edmonton, AB T6G 2C8, Canada.
2 Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, T6E 1R9, Canada.
3 Department of Medicinal Chemistry, School of Pharmacy, University of Washington Medical Center, HSR&D, S-152, Puget Sound HCS, 1660 South Columbian Way, Seattle, Washington 98108, USA.


Our objective was to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis for the use of modified (heat-killed or sonicated) probiotics for the efficacy and safety to prevent and treat various diseases. Recent clinical research has focused on living strains of probiotics, but use in high-risk patients and potential adverse reactions including bacteremia has focused interest on alternatives to the use of live probiotics. We searched MEDLINE/PubMed, Embase, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, CINAHL, Alt Health Watch, Web of Science, Scopus, PubMed, from inception to February 14, 2017 for randomised controlled trials involving modified probiotic strains. The primary outcome was efficacy to prevent or treat disease and the secondary outcome was incidence of adverse events. A total of 40 trials were included (n=3,913): 14 trials (15 arms with modified probiotics and 20 control arms) for the prevention of diseases and 26 trials (29 arms with modified probiotics and 32 control arms) for treatment of various diseases. Modified microbes were compared to either placebo (44%), or the same living probiotic strain (39%) or to only standard therapies (17%). Modified microbes were not significantly more or less effective than the living probiotic in 86% of the preventive trials and 69% of the treatment trials. Modified probiotic strains were significantly more effective in 15% of the treatment trials. Incidence rates of adverse events were similar for modified and living probiotics and other control groups, but many trials did not collect adequate safety data. Although several types of modified probiotics showed significant efficacy over living strains of probiotics, firm conclusions could not be reached due to the limited number of trials using the same type of modified microbe (strain, daily dose and duration) for a specific disease indication. Further research may illuminate other strains of modified probiotics that may have potential as clinical biotherapeutics.


adult disease; allergy; cancer; dead microbes; diarrhoea; living probiotics; paediatric disease; weight loss

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