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A new study suggests that people who have a certain helpful microbe, or probiotic, in their gut may be less likely to have harmful “staph” germs.
Staph is short for Staphylococcus aureus. It’s a very common germ. Staph usually doesn’t cause problems. But it can cause boils, pneumonia, and other infections.
Antibiotics usually cure staph infections. But some staph germs are resistant to treatment. These infections can be deadly.
NIH-funded researchers have been studying whether probiotics can help prevent staph infections. Bacillus bacteria are often found in probiotic products. Bacillus are found on vegetables harvested from the ground.
Researchers examined the bacteria in 200 stool samples from people who live in rural Thailand, where people are more likely to eat fresh vegetables. About half the samples contained Bacillus. Many of the people studied had staph. But no staph was found in any of the people with Bacillus.
In laboratory tests, the researchers found that Bacillus makes specific substances that stop staph from thriving. When they gave mice a probiotic product that contained Bacillus, staph didn’t grow in the gut.
“Probiotics frequently are recommended as dietary supplements to improve digestive health,” says Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “This is one of the first studies to describe precisely how they may work to provide health benefits.”
However, more studies are needed to test whether a probiotic product with Bacillus could prevent the growth of staph in people.