My Issues With Bacillus licheniformis

What about a new probiotic that produces antioxidants once it propagates in your intestinal tract. Sounds great right?

A probiotic supplement that, in addition, claims to: 1

  • Be designed by nature.
  • Survive the harsh stomach environment.
  • Requires no refrigeration.
  • Include a strain that is the most widely used in the world.
  • Helps regulate the immune system.

The probiotic supplement with all this and more is known as MegaSporeBiotic!

To be honest, if you give me any product – even those that I recommend – I can find something untrue or at least “bending” the truth when it comes to claims made about the product. The same is true for MegaSpore.

MegaSpore makes a claim that the Bacillus species used in their supplement are the most widely researched and used in the world. This statement is grossly incorrect. Bacillus is not a species of bacteria but a genus. 2 Bacteria from the Bacillus genus are not the most widely used and researched “probiotics” in the world, that award goes to the Lactobacillus genus (Bifidobacterium is a close second.) 3 Megaspore also specifically states that Bacillus clausii is the most widely used “probiotic” drug in the world. That award should instead go to Lactobacillus acidophilus, which is found in the prescribed probiotic VSL. 4 5

MegaSpore also makes a claim that Bacillus indicus HU36 would produce a wide variety of carotenoid antioxidants once it colonizes the large intestine. Production of poorly absorbed dietary carotenoid antioxidants in the large intestine would be a great thing if there were any science available outside of the MegaSpore website to back up this theory. It is possible for Bacillus indicus HU36 to produce these antioxidants, 6 but there is no proof whether or not this will occur in animal or human intestinal tracts. Bacillus indicus HU36; itself is a spore-forming marine based bacteria that is not known to be native gut flora to any human, and based on that alone should be supplemented under the supervision of a doctor. Bacillus indicus has also shown resistance to clindamycin in a study. 7

 Bacillus licheniformis

Bacillus licheniformis is one of the worst offending soil based “probiotics” and is known to cause food poisoning, 8 septicemia, 9 10 11 peritonitis, 12 and ophthalmitis. 13 Bacillus licheniformis is not native human flora but appears to be native flora in birds. 14 Bacillus licheniformis is a ubiquitous organism and likely enters the human digestive system many times a day. While data regarding its ability to survive in the human gastrointestinal tract is sparse, it is likely that the spores pass without activating. 15

Bacillus licheniformis is known to cause spontaneous abortions in cattle and sheep as well as contaminate dairy (a cause of food poisoning) with toxins produced from the animals from ingestion of spoilage. B. licheniformis is a spore former and likely to survive all industrial processing of milk, such as the manufacture of milk powder and whey concentrate. Toxins produced by B. licheniformis interfere with mitochondrial function and over-activate the TRPV1 receptors in the intestines causing diarrhea. 16

Not all strains of Bacillus licheniformis appear to contain toxin expressing genes, but with most probiotic supplements not labeling the strains of bacteria used, it is hard to know what you are taking in. Some “probiotic” supplements have removed it from their formulations in recent years; Garden of Life’s Primal Defense is a prime example of the change of heart. 17

People may criticize me for being overly cautious when it comes to other “HSO” probiotics and their chances of causing infections. There have been some cases involving Bacillus licheniformis causing infections in people who are hospitalized or after surgery and it has even been associated with food poisoning. Lactobacillus acidophilus might have a few cases of septicemia infections in recorded literature, but it is more widely used probiotic and the worse it would cause is easier to identify and treat infections compared to most “HSO’s.” 18 19

Endospores are dormant, tough encapsulations that protect the bacteria from your immune system, antibiotics, antibacterials, and even probiotics. Bacteria can also lie dormant in endospores until their environment becomes favorable for faster reproduction and survival. Bacterial endospores may also become opportunistic in a host, share in a commune with the gut flora for a time. Bacterial endospores can survive without nutrients for a long time and are resistant to UV radiation, desiccation, high temperatures, extreme freezing, and most chemical disinfectants. 20

Since bacteria in the Bacillus genus are spore forming, it becomes hard to eliminate them if they become opportunistic. Most proponents say that the endospore aspect of licheniformis is a good quality in a “probiotic.” Their reasoning behind this recommendation is that since Bacillus licheniformis is encapsulated in an endospore, the bacteria can survive stomach acid when ingested and propagate easily in the intestines.

Bacillus licheniformis has been shown to be immunostimulatory in some cases and produces bactericides to help eliminate other bacteria. 21 Some non-HSO bacteria also produce bactericides to help reduce total bacterial load in the intestines, but most of those bacteria are easy to eliminate if they cause an infection. 22 23 If Bacillus licheniformis becomes opportunistic, its bactericides may target normal probiotic flora and reduce their populations increasing its virulence.

I will not recommend any supplement that uses Bacillus licheniformis because of these possible issues.

Update 1: We recently spoke with Kiran Krishnan, the designer of MegaSpore. He has been working in the probiotic industry for over fifteen years and has some of the same concerns that we do about probiotic companies. He is going to be sharing some data with us in the coming weeks about his quality control methods, and how meticulous he is about keeping his product safe. According to Mr. Krishnan, MegaSpore is used by over a thousand doctors, and many people are seeing positive results with his product.

Update 2: The information Kiran provided us did not meet our expectations and at this time we still cannot recommend Megaspore. I cannot give too much detail because Kiran asked me not to, but most of the information provided were old studies that we were well aware of, promotional literature from Megaspore, and a COA for Bacillus subtilis. I can say that with some certainty that their Bacillus subtilis HU58 strain is labeled correctly and verified pure by the third party COA provided. That being said he provided us no in-house studies or COA’s on the other strains in the supplement including the one I had the most issues within the supplement, Bacillus licheniformis. We contacted Kiran again for more information and we have not heard from him since. If he provides us the requested information, at any time, I would update the blog with more information, but at this time we still do not recommend Megaspore.

We have differing opinions about the Bacillus genus and we invite you to look at the comment section at the bottom of the article for Mr. Krishnan’s rebuttal. We hope that this discussion proves to be valuable, and that the dialog helps you to find the best treatment option under the supervision of a qualified physician.

Update 3: More information on Megasporebiotic.

  1. http://www.gomegaspore.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Patient-Handout.pdf
  2. http://www.ic.ucsc.edu/~saltikov/bio119l/readings/prokaryotes/Bacillus.pdf
  3. http://www.aafp.org/afp/2008/1101/p1073.html
  4. http://www.aafp.org/afp/2008/1101/p1073.html
  5. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/83/6/1256.full
  6. http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CCkQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.researchgate.net%2Fprofile%2FCharlotte_Sy%2Fpublication%2F235629021_Inhibition_of_iron-induced_lipid_peroxidation_by_newly_identified_bacterial_carotenoids_in_model_gastric_conditions_comparison_with_common_carotenoids%2Flinks%2F53f1f7330cf2f2c3e7fca02d.pdf&ei=qLE9VbuXMoqrNsPpgfgH&usg=AFQjCNEM7mj3eEMV10Xwrld5IumPMBwm0g&sig2=xl4VpLoP0jhIXHC_W3r5CA&bvm=bv.91665533,d.eXY
  7. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2672.2008.03773.x/full
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC91618/
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3326966/
  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22918867
  11. http://jcm.asm.org/content/33/11/3070.short
  12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16509927
  13. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-09/documents/fra005.pdf
  14. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-09/documents/fra005.pdf
  15. http://www.epa.gov/biotech_rule/pubs/fra/fra005.htm
  16. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC91618/
  17. http://blog.listentoyourgut.com/bacterial-soil-organisms-hsos-sos-sbos-etc/
  18. http://www.epa.gov/biotech_rule/pubs/fra/fra005.htm
  19. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/83/6/1256.full
  20. https://micro.cornell.edu/research/epulopiscium/bacterial-endospores
  21. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1472-765X.2004.01478.x/pdf
  22. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12619886
  23. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8854175