Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Aspergillus as a Probiotic for animals?

Probiotics are used as food supplements and are broadly defined as: "Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host"

There are an increasing number of reviews and research papers on the use of Aspergillus as a probiotic in farm animal feed. It is recorded as having beneficial effects on - nutrition uptake (e.g. making nitrogen more available in ruminants), blood cholesterol levels, mineral absorption and adjusting the gut microflora. The overall purpose of feeding animals a probiotic is to increase food production, the measurement of which is feasible and achievable through measurement of food output i.e. meat weight, egg production numbers and so on.

When it comes to non-food producing animals i.e. domestic pets, the use of these products is less obvious and less measurable. These products are sold to 'make our pets healthier' in some way and also to make food more palatable - but this is not a measurable commodity for the pet-owner and there is often very little, well conducted research to support the claims. In short there is a large dose of marketing involved and much less evidence to suggest it is worth paying out sums of money for these supplements.


Chip said...

Very interesting, but, what effect will the consumption of aspergillus in this format have on humans already suffering from aspergillosis? ABPA etc.
Will the consumption of aspergillus add to the strain on the sufferers body and thus increase the risk of further health problems?

Website Team GA said...

This sort of question comes up a lot and for food allergies the answer is not simple.

There are many claims from people who believe that they have a food allergy, but tests reveal that some 90% of these are mistaken - those that remain are genuine and this is thought to effect around 1-2 % of all people.

There is clear evidence that true food allergy can be widely caused by inhaled allergens. It is often the case that inhaling some tree pollen for example causes allergies to a whole variety of apparently unrelated foods e.g. Apple, hazelnut, carrot, potato, cherry, kiwi, nectarine, peach, celery, soy (
This cross reactivity has been traced to common allergens or related allergens.

There is therefore clear evidence that an inhaled allergen can cause a food allergy.

No work has been done (that I can find) on people with an allergic illness to aspergillus and its relation to food allergy - this is something we would like to research. The mechanism that might lead us to propose that inhaling aspergillus spores could cause food allergies is apparently in place.

This suggests that there might be something in a link between particular food allergies and allergy to aspergillus. Likewise there might be something in particular foods triggering those allergise. In both cases (inhaled and food allergens) similar mechanisms are at work which will recognise similar allergens, so there is a possibility that food containing even trace amounts of fungal allergens will trigger an allergy.

The first step is to establish if those people who claim that they have a food allergy reaction to aspergillus allergens (or fungal allergens) are in fact experiencing a genuine reaction, and that is only possible through specific medical testing rather than anecdotal stories.

Anonymous said...

I lived in a building infested with aspergillus (and I do mean infested, it was growing on everything) for around 3 years. I found out that it was aspergillus because I took it to a lab and had it tested. In addition to becoming extremely sick, I had to throw most of my belongings away and heavily clean the rest to avoid infecting my next residence. I had never had any known allergies prior and had always been extremely healthy and athletic.
During the latter part of my stay there and the couple of years following, I developed a number of awful food allergies (went to a reputable, long-established allergy clinic went through a long period of testing) and very bad allergies to molds. My health, hasn't been good since living there. I've never doubted that this horrible experience likely had something to do with my health problems. Too bad there are still many people living there and getting sicker by the day. :(

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