Antibiotic resistance is a global public health problem that requires our attention. Indiscriminate antibiotic use is a major contributor in the introduction of selective pressures in our natural environments that have significantly contributed in the rapid emergence of antibiotic-resistant microbial strains. The use of probiotics in lieu of antibiotic therapy to address certain health conditions in both animals and humans may alleviate these antibiotic-mediated selective pressures. Probiotic use is defined as the actual application of live beneficial microbes to obtain a desired outcome by preventing diseased state or improving general health. Multiple studies have confirmed the beneficial effects of probiotic use in the health of both livestock and humans. As such, probiotics consumption is gaining popularity worldwide. However, concerns have been raised in the use of some probiotics strains that carry antibiotic resistance genes themselves, as they have the potential to pass the antibiotic resistance genes to pathogenic bacteria through horizontal gene transfer. Therefore, with the current public health concern on antibiotic resistance globally, in this review, we underscore the need to screen probiotic strains that are used in both livestock and human applications to assure their safety and mitigate their potential in significantly contributing to the spread of antibiotic resistance genes in our natural environments.
Probiotics are live microorganisms, mainly belonging to the genera Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, although also strain of other species are commercialized, that have a beneficial effect on the host. From the perspective of antibiotic use, probiotics have been observed to reduce the risk of certain infectious disease such as certain types of diarrhea and respiratory tract infection. This may be accompanied with a reduced need of antibiotics for secondary infections. Antibiotics tend to be effective against most common diseases, but increasingly resistance is being observed among pathogens. Probiotics are specifically selected to not contribute to the spread of antibiotic resistance and not carry transferable antibiotic resistance. Concomitant use of probiotics with antibiotics has been observed to reduce the incidence, duration and/or severity of antibiotic-associated diarrhea. This contributes to better adherence to the antibiotic prescription and thereby reduces the evolution of resistance. To what extent probiotics directly reduce the spread of antibiotic resistance is still much under investigation; but maintaining a balanced microbiota during antibiotic use may certainly provide opportunities for reducing the spread of resistances. Key messages Probiotics may reduce the risk for certain infectious diseases and thereby reduce the need for antibiotics. Probiotics may reduce the risk for antibiotic-associated diarrhea Probiotics do not contribute to the spread of antibiotic resistance and may even reduce it.