Affiliation: Department of Microbiology, Assam University, Silchar, Assam- 788001, India.
With the everincreasing problem of multidrug resistance worldwide, concerns are growing regarding use of alternative compounds to supplement or modify the actions of antibiotics. Along with drug resistance, antibiotics also provide a number of side effects, diarrhea being a very prominent one. Antibiotic associated diarrhea (AAD) is difficult to manage and therefore concepts like ‘probiotics’ have gained importance. In this respect, ‘prebiotics’, which are ‘food’ to ‘feed’ the healthy colonic flora, is an upcoming concept. Because antibiotics alter the normal intestinal flora, controlling the composition of the flora could be truly beneficial. Prebiotics are short chain carbohydrates that can alter the intestinal microbial flora to one rich in bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, the organisms that constitute ‘balanced healthy flora’ and resist gut colonizations by pathogenic flora and infections. The approach seems reasonable. Moreover, prebiotic compounds can be easily incorporated into foodstuffs unlike probiotics. Despite the availability of many natural compounds with prebiotic activity, only inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides have successfully met the criteria to be labeled as prebiotics with substantial evidence. Therefore, it is much early to suppose that prebiotics will markedly change the fate of AADs, even though their potential to restore gut microbial balance is definite. Continuous research studying the effects of more such compounds is required to substantiate the several physiological benefits of prebiotics.