Infections are very common and are responsible for a large number of diseases adversely affecting human health. Most of the infectious diseases are caused by bacteria. Infections caused by bacteria can be prevented & and treated through anti-bacterial group of compounds known as antibiotics. Penicillin, the first natural antibiotic was discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928.

Antibiotics came from the Greek 'anti' meaning "against" and 'bios' meaning "life". It is a substance or compound that kills bacteria or inhibits their growth. Antibiotics are generally the frequently prescribed medications. Antibiotics help our body to fight infections when the body can't do it by itself. They were initially used to target only bacteria but now broad-spectrum types of antibiotics are available which work equally well on fungus.

They may be bactericidal (capable of killing bacteria) or bacteriostatic (capable of inhibiting the growth or reproduction of bacteria ) in nature. There are different types of antibiotics based on the targets on which they act like Antibiotics that target the bacterial cell wall (penicillins, cephalosporins), or interfere with essential bacterial enzymes (quinolones, sulfonamides) are bactericidal in nature. Those that target protein synthesis, such as the aminoglycosides & tetracyclines are bacteriostatic. There are over a 100 of types of antibiotics. If the right antibiotic is taken as prescribed, it will cure the disease in the shortest span of time. Their production is carried out using fermentation in strongly aerobic environment.


Antibiotics can literally save lives and are effective in treating illnesses caused by bacterial infections. But they have been associated with a wide range of adverse effects. These side-effects are many and varied, and can be very serious depending on the antibiotics used and the microbial organisms targeted. Adverse reactions to antibiotics may vary from person to person. The most common side effects from antibiotics are diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting & constipation.

Antibiotics like Penicillin and Erythromycin, which used to be one-time cures are now less effective because bacteria have become more resistant. So this inappropriate antibiotic treatment and its overuse have been a contributing factor to the emergence of resistant bacteria. Antibiotics kill sensitive bacteria, but resistant ones can survive and multiply. So with time antibiotics that used to work for infections have now become less effective.

Since ANTIBIOTICS are a foreign substance to our body, they can cause various allergic reactions .These allergic reactions cause swelling of the face, itching and a skin rash and, in severe cases, breathing difficulties. Antibiotics generally disrupt the normal balance of the intestinal flora ,this overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria may be alleviated by ingesting PROBIOTICS during a course of antibiotics.

Probiotics came from the word 'pro' meaning "for" and 'bios' meaning "life". Probiotic bacterial are live microbial food supplements that may benefit the host by improving its intestinal balance. Probiotics are commonly consumed as part of fermented foods with specially added active live cultures; such as in yogurt, soy yogurt, or as dietary supplements.

Probiotics can be bacteria, moulds or yeast. But most probiotics are bacteria e.g Lactic acid bacteria ( like Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. casei, L. lactis, L.rhamnosus, L. johnsonii, L. reuteri, L. fermentum ) and bifidobacteria are the most common types of microbes used as probiotics. They are the friendly bacteria that live & work in our gastrointestinal tract. They build colonies in our small & large intestines and constitute the first line of defence against illness and disease.

A healthy human gut contains millions of beneficial bacteria. It's a symbiotic relationship: Our intestines make a good habitat for the bacteria, and in return they help us digest our food, crowd out harmful bacteria (such as food-borne pathogens), strengthen the gut's immune response, and even manufacture certain nutrients, such as vitamins B12 and K. They are the guardian which lower our cholesterol, protect against food poisoning & cancel the effect of toxins and environmental pollutants. Lactobacillus has anti-cancer potential, and works as a biotherapeutic agent in cases of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea, constipation, inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome.They can even be used as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).

Probiotic strains also solve the problem of lactose intolerance.In lactose intolerance , people lack the ability to produce an enzyme LACTASE which is essential to digest the disaccharide in milk. So a person suffering from lactose intolerance is advised to take non-milk diet. People with lactose intolerance problem express abdominal discomfort, diarrhoea, cramps, flatulence, nausea, vomiting & calcium deficiency. So, if probiotics are fed to lactose intolerance patients, then milk lactose is hydrolysed by probiotic strains and lactose is digested.

Probiotics consumption by young children may beneficially affect immune system development. Probiotics such as Lactobacillus GG may be helpful in alleviating some of the symptoms of food allergies . Probiotics may exert a beneficial effect on allergic reaction by improving mucosal barrier function. So probiotics consumption is a means for primary prevention of allergy in susceptible individuals.
Probiotic strains, lactic acid bacteria, have a major role to play in the cholesterol lowering mechanism. High cholesterol level keeps in the serum, leads to cardiac diseases. These cholesterol levels can be brought down using probiotics.

Even though probiotics are enormously useful , they could be harmul in specific situations. Probiotics' side effects, if present, are generally mild and digestive (such as gas or bloating). Probiotics might sometimes cause infections that need to be treated with antibiotics, especially in people with underlying health conditions. They can also cause unhealthy metabolic activities, like too much stimulation of the immune system.More serious effects are found sometimes e.g in people suffering from lactobacillus septicaemia, which is a potentially fatal disease caused by the consumption of probiotics by people with lowered immune systems.

Status of probiotics in India
In India, probiotics are often used as animal feed supplements for cattle, poultry and piggery. The Sporolac, Saccharomyces boulardii and yogurt (L. bulgaricus + L. thermophillus) are the most common ones being used for human beings.
Sporolac is manufactured using Sporolactobacilli. Lactobacilli solution ( probiotic) is, usually given to paediatric patients in India. Other food products containing probiotics are mostly dairy products -fluid milk, curd etc. AMUL has also introduced Indis's first probiotic ice cream & curd. The latest and recent addition to the list of probiotics in India is ViBact (which is made up of genetically modified Bacillus mesentricus), which acts as an alternate to B-complex capsules

About Author / Additional Info:
A Mtech bioinformatics student from Delhi College Of Engineering(DCE), here is a concise information about Probiotics and their comparison with antibiotics..