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South African Medical Journal

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An evaluation of nine probiotics available in South Africa, August 2003

E Elliott, K Teversham

Abstract


Background and objective. Although probiotics are not new, 5 new commercially available products have been launched onto the South African market in the last 2 years. Evaluations of products in the USA and Europe have shown poor correlation between label claims and actual contents. We undertook an evaluation of 9 products currently available on the shelves in South Africa.


Methods and analysis. An independent laboratory was used. A culture method involving serial dilutions on selective media was used to obtain a colony count per gram for the indicated organisms. A non-culture method, denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE), was used to determine the organisms present in the products.


Results. Disturbingly, we found a relatively poor correlation between the advertised and determined bacterial content. Only 3 of the 9 products tested contained the bacteria indicated on the label and 5 products contained sufficient bacteria for a probiotic effect. The Enterococcus faecium, a potential pathogen and Saccharomyces cerevisiae found in 2 of the products are of concern.


Conclusion. This evaluation confirms that the contents of several probiotics available in South Africa do not correspond to the label claims. This is of concern as clinical efficacy is dependent on strain specificity and organism numbers. Current regulatory requirements do not address this discrepancy. As such, we recommend that commercially available probiotic products be screened annually, and the results of such quality control measures be made available to the Medicines Control Council (MCC).


S Afr Med J 2004; 94: 121-124.