With a greater public awareness of probiotics, patients may ask health professionals to recommend a probiotic suitable for their needs. Products vary on many parameters: genus, species, alphanumeric designation, number of live bacteria, blend of probiotic strains, and non-active ingredients. How do professionals assess the relevance of each product available for a particular patient?
A new Canadian mobile app was designed so health professionals can help their patients choose the best probiotic from the ones available in Canada. The app was developed by Ferring Pharmaceuticals and uses published clinical data from the Clinical Guide to Probiotic Supplements Available in Canada.
This app helps Canadians select a brand and type of probiotic. In what particular situations might it be useful?
The guide compiles information on genus/species/strain, recommended dosage, CFU [colony-forming units] per dose, the format of the product and what indications have been tested and the strength of the evidence. These are helpful details to both consumers and healthcare providers. Also, this tool is useful in that it actually names products. In an attempt to not appear biased or to come across as a spokesperson for a particular brand, scientists are often loathe to recommend specific products. They may be willing to speak about evidence for specific strains, but it is often difficult for consumers to know what commercial products contain what strains. So this tool is useful to guide consumers to specific probiotic products that have evidence for specific clinical indications.
Considering all the ways in which one might choose a probiotic, what do you see as the advantage of using this app?
The advantage to this type of guide is that it was developed using an evidence-based approach.
What are the limitations of this kind of tool?
Although many of the products described in this guide are widely distributed geographically, this guide was specifically developed for products in Canada. So products in other countries may not be represented on it.
Also, the guide does not speak to any safety concerns. Although traditional probiotics have an excellent safety record even for some vulnerable populations, I think it is important to point out that if products are not manufactured specifically for patient populations for which some efficacy data may exist, [they] need to be determined to be safe for the target populations.