On June 5-7, the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) convened its annual meeting, for the first time in Asia. The program featured two days of open plenary sessions attended by 230 academic and industry scientists, health professionals, and regulatory representatives. A third day of discussion groups was held for invited experts and Industry Advisory Committee members, while the event also featured a poster session comprising 78 posters covering the latest microbiota, probiotic and prebiotic research from around the world.

Some highlights from plenary lectures included:

  • Probiotic supplementation combined with oral immunotherapy decreased the risk of peanut allergy in children.
  • Changes coming in the nomenclature of the genus Lactobacillus. Many probiotic lactobacilli are likely to be renamed and no longer be part of the Lactobacillus genus, which will have scientific, commercial, regulatory and intellectual property ramifications.
  • Molecules that drive probiotic health benefits are diverse. Although inactivated microbes (e.g. heat-killed Akkermansia muciniphila for ameliorating obesity and diabetes in mice) may have health effects, they cannot be considered probiotics as probiotics must be alive when administered.
  • Specific probiotic strains were shown to uptake environmental toxins and enhance their degradation.
  • Probiotics are an emerging and useful complementary tool for supporting oral health. Probiotics have the potential to help manage periodontal infections and prevent caries. See here.

See here for additional speaker highlights.


The following insights reflect the main topics covered during the discussion groups.

Discussion group 1. Possibilities of harmonizing global probiotic and prebiotic regulations 

This discussion was chaired by Drs. Seppo Salminen, Yuan Kun Lee and Gabriel Vinderola. During the session, participants discussed current probiotic and prebiotic regulations in different countries and defined minimum criteria that probiotics and prebiotics within a food or food supplement should meet. Regarding probiotics, criteria include identification to the strain level; naming according to valid microbiological nomenclature; safety for intended use; providing sufficient levels of live microorganisms to deliver the health benefit until the end of shelf-life; deposit in an international culture collection; and providing evidence of health benefit from human intervention studies. For prebiotics, criteria comprise adequate chemical characterization; safety for intended use; selectively utilized by host microbes; sufficient amount to deliver the health benefit until the end of shelf-life; and evidence of health benefit from human studies.

A straightforward action that arose from the discussion group was the production of a consensus document—that will be provided to the Codex Alimentarius Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Use—with the minimum global standards for probiotics.


Discussion group 2. Fermented foods for health: East meets West

Based on the different substrates and manufacturer processes used when producing fermented foods across East and West countries, chairs Drs. Bob Hutkins, Paul Cotter and Liu Shao Quan focused on the nutritional and health outcomes of this food group. Although more research is needed to establish how fermented foods contribute to health, the contribution to human health of live microbes found in yogurt and other fermented foods was highlighted. These foods are relevant for inclusion in nutritional guidelines, especially in developing countries with the greatest need for improved public health.


Discussion group 3. Potential value of probiotics and prebiotics to treat or prevent serious medical issues in developing countries

This discussion group led by Drs. Dan Merenstein, Reuben Wong and Colin Hill discussed the challenges and benefits of using probiotics and prebiotics to treat or prevent severe infections including sepsis, Clostridium difficile infections and necrotizing enterocolitis in resource poor areas.  Although the benefit/risk ratio should be evaluated individually, attendees agreed that the potential benefits of probiotic use in low-income countries greatly outweighs the risk.

Ongoing strategies were planned for development in cooperation with government institutions as a means of helping poor resource areas implement probiotics-based approaches for better public health.


Discussion group 4. Prebiotics as ingredients: how foods, fibers and delivery methods influence functionality

This discussion forum led by Drs. Glenn Gibson and Karen Scott addressed the impact of prebiotics included in whole foods on inflammatory and metabolic markers in both preclinical and human intervention studies. Although not all prebiotics necessarily have the same effect when incorporated to a food matrix, participants concluded that shared data support potential health applications of dietary fibers incorporated into whole foods. Among them, prebiotics may influence fatty acid metabolism by increasing short-chain fatty acid production with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and lipid reduction properties.

When evaluating prebiotics’ health effects, participants noted that moving from a composition approach to measuring gut microbiota functional changes is important in order to depict a clear picture of prebiotic impact on commensal communities and their metabolites. Clarification of host and food factors that might affect prebiotics’ functionality (e.g. type, dose, cooking methods, food matrix, host phenotype, etc.) is also relevant and harmonizing their regulation was convened.


The 2019 ISAPP meeting will be held May 14-16 in Antwerp, Belgium. Industry scientists representing ISAPP Industry Advisory Committee corporate members are welcome to attend the meeting. Please see here for information about corporate membership. Students interested in attending the meeting should contact the ISAPP Students & Fellows Association.