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“They want everything to have probiotics” – A growing market and how it’s changing health

Meteoric Biopharmaceuticals, established in 2006, is an Indian company focused on the production of enzymes, probiotics and nutraceuticals. In an exclusive interview with Health Issues India, its founder, managing director, and chief executive officer Gaurav Kaushik discusses the role of probiotics in the healthcare market, both in India and at the global level, as well as the importance of a shift to green chemistry — a concept Meteoric Biopharmaceuticals is passionate about.

Our interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Image credit: aquir / 123rf

“Meteoric Biopharmaceuticals excels in the manufacture and export of enzymes, nutraceuticals and probiotics products. We deal with all range of products for pharmaceutical and food applications. In the probiotic segment we are dealing with a wide range of probiotics, both spore forming and vegetative probiotics. We also contract manufacture several propriety and customised ranges of probiotics.”

Probiotics come in three groups. The first group is spore-forming probiotics. The second, and largest, group is vegetative probiotics such as Lactobacillus spp., Bifidobacterium spp. and streptococcus spp.  The third group consists of yeasts, rather than probiotics. The field of probiotics is one that is witnessing a period of rapid expansion, both financially and in terms of the strains and potential uses for probiotic products. This occurrence is not limited to India but is occurring on a global level. Kaushik notes 

“I see tremendous growth and opportunity in this prebiotic and probiotic segment (synbiotics) since the company’s inception…when I started the company and across 2006-07 I engaged in a lot of proactive roles regarding probiotics. At that point in time, their use was known to be limited to intestinal and gastric symptoms, but now it has expanded to a huge range of therapeutic medicines; immune boosters; wellness; and solutions to lots of chronic and non-chronic diseases. So, we see a vast industry expanding day by day, not only limited to the intestine…a lot of cures are being done by probiotics.”

India in particular is seeing an increased demand for medical treatments that take a more natural approach than more conventional allopathic remedies. The Ayurvedic, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) Ministry is expanding rapidly, with Ayurvedic treatments being made available at an ever increasing number of locations as demand for alternative medicine treatments rises. Probiotics, as a natural means of improving health, may be riding this wave of popularity according to Kaushik

“India is a great potential market, and our company has a lot of potential with spore-forming probiotics. They cover the largest portion of our portfolio because of their stability and wide range of functionality and uses. ‘Stability’ is the biggest concern for probiotics and probiotic manufacturers. Bacteria in probiotics manufacturing passes through several adverse and pressurised conditions, not only during manufacturing…probiotics also need to establish and settle in our gut after passing and being exposed to many enzymatic and chemical secretions released from our organs.”

A key factor in the increased use of probiotics is increased public awareness of their health benefits. While in previous years, the use of probiotics was seen as a means of improving intestinal health, or for some simply to keep bowel movements regular. This has since expanded as Kaushik explains

“Probiotics are a useful tool in improving gut health and treating a number of disorders. But now it is expanded to other things like it is useful in improving heart function and, respiratory functions, acting as an immunomodulator; there are a lot of probiotics being tried for Alzheimer’s disease as well…Probiotics are playing a very big role in heart disease and heart function. A lot of clients are interested in probiotics for the control of heart disease, the immune system, stress, and vaginal care.” 

While probiotics themselves may not be the cure to specific conditions, they have a significant and documented effect on overall health. A key concern of the Indian healthcare system at a moment when noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) including heart disease and cancer are growing in incidence. Cancer and heart disease alone account for nearly half of all deaths in India. 

Probiotics could have a protective effect against such conditions. Improving digestive health has a profound effect on the rest of the body, and is something many Indians could currently benefit from. Dietary health is of particular concern in India as lifestyle alterations have changed what was historically a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables into a more western-style diet containing ample amounts of sugary food and saturated fats. This is emphasised by Kaushik

“Nowadays the kind of lifestyle that we have – fast paced, poor diet, stress, pollution, exposure to several infections – probiotics are helping to keep not only your intestines but yourself well as a whole. They can help with your day-to-day nutrition to keep your immune system strong. We are doing research on probiotics for other diseases as well…Lifestyle diseases like heart disease are arising from the kind of food patterns and stress conditions and erratic lifestyles that we have adopted. With probiotics we are trying to add the right quantity of beneficial bacteria that are associated with many different functions of your body. They not only help to make your immune system strong, but are in sync with different functions and activities of your body, keeping yourself active and lively, keeping the heart healthy, and helping to deal with stress and act as perfect immunomodulators. Probiotics are even helping with the flu and several antibiotic side effects and disorders.

For some, the stresses of modern working life allow little opportunity to afford time to a healthy diet or exercise pattern. Kaushik notes that, in these cases, probiotics may play a role in alleviating some of the stresses such a lifestyle will place upon the body

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Probiotics can be found naturally in some foods, or added to almost any food or drink. Fruit drinks and yoghurts make an excellent medium for probiotics. Image credit: Svitlana Tereshchenko / 123rf

“Suppose we take an example of a lifestyle where you are very ambitious or even have a normal working pattern, you don’t care about food timing, or food quality, and you expose yourself to many infections directly or indirectly. In that case, when one is having a very bad diet, poor nutrients, junk food and fast food, it completely disturbs the functions of your body. It takes multiple organs to process these foods and deal with these patterns — it is said “we are what we eat”. Whenever you live and eat in such fashion you are placing pressure on different organs and disturb the microbes and microbiota of the body. Different enzymes are needed in order to help to give you proper nutrition through effective digestion. Whatever you consume, whatever toxins you consume unknowingly, the organs have to do their job. By doing so, different organs and glands are affected, though every absorption of nutrients occurs in the intestine, in the villi. Probiotics, whether consumed by water, by drinks or tablet, ideally go and settle in this area, developing beneficial biofilms. They help to deal and fight with the kinds of toxic substances and pathogens associated with bad foods and disorders. They help to clean your body, increase [the health of] the immune system and kill the pathogens like E. coli, salmonella, clostridium and other bad bacteria and other adverse side effects caused by synthetic medicines and antibiotics. For those with erratic lifestyles, this can be very helpful.”

Another key issue that Meteoric Biopharmaceuticals is aiming to address within the market is the prevalence of synthetic chemicals. Kaushik believes that, on a global level, we should be pushing towards green chemistry in favour of the use of synthetic chemicals. Doing so could make the pharmaceutical market a far more sustainable, environmentally conscious industry

“We use our platform to push the message that we must switch over to biological processes. In some parts of Europe and the US, I am happy to see that they are not using antibiotics at all on animals. This segment of the market is heavily exposed to synthetic chemicals and antibiotics which are not necessary sometimes. We have the pressure of meat, the pressure of eggs, the different byproducts of animals and through this a lot of antibiotics are coming to you. Someone has to take the lead, you need to stop these synthetic chemicals, because these are not only degrading the human race, but affecting your life and degrading the functions of the body. We are promoting more and more biological products, probiotics and nutraceuticals in the medical context both for humans and for animals. There was a time when people would think that you would only gain the benefit of probiotics in the intestine, but it is proven now their efficacy in treating the whole body.”

Probiotics, and a focus on green chemistry rather than reaching for the antibiotics at the first sign of illness, could indeed play a major role in the future of healthcare across the globe. Third- and fourth-line antibiotics, for example — used as a last resort in cases where resistance is present to more commonly used medications — are being used indiscriminately within India, claims a paper authored by three researchers belonging to the Gurugram-based Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI). Use of broader, holistic approaches, such as that of probiotics, Kaushik suggests could help to alleviate the overuse of antibiotics — a problem that has fueled the rise of antibiotic resistance.

“I don’t say that probiotics have the complete potential to eliminate and replace antibiotics, but they are a proven alternative to antibiotics and disorders caused by antibiotics uses. We take antibiotics unnecessarily many times. You also cannot take the same antibiotic all your life. Antibiotic use places the body under stress, disturbs microbiota and over time you become resistant to many antibiotics. The benefit that probiotics have is that there is no resistance mechanism in your body, so you can take a similar strain of probiotic throughout all of your life. For specific types of diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis, there is no specific probiotic; many strain of probiotics being explored. However, it is when talking about overall health that probiotics are best used. Some probiotic strains however will help when taken with antibiotics. When taken together it helps to improve the function of the antibiotic, helps to combat antibiotics stress, and improves the absorption of the antibiotic. In some ways and for some illnesses, probiotics will definitely replace antibiotics. In other diseases, probiotics and antibiotics together produce better results but still I advise – “SAY NO TO ANTIBIOTICS.”

Probiotics represent a means by which to help improve health in general. They are also an area in which India is leading the way in developing new strains and new uses — a prospect that is being led by companies such as Meteoric Biopharmaceuticals. 

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