Probiotics database in demand among Singapore healthcare practitioners, says new research

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

There is a demand for database showing the scientific evidence behind commercially available probiotic products among Singapore's healthcare practitioners. ©Getty Images
There is a demand for database showing the scientific evidence behind commercially available probiotic products among Singapore's healthcare practitioners. ©Getty Images

Related tags Singapore Probiotics healthcare

A comprehensive probiotics database is being sought by healthcare practitioners in Singapore, on the back of greater use and enquiries on such products from the public, according to new research.

This is based on findings on healthcare practitioners’ feedback and experience of using an online probiotics database.

The database was created by researchers from National Healthcare Group’s Group Health Informatics, the Department of Pharmacy from National University of Singapore and Singapore General Hospital’s Department of Pharmacy, and La Trobe University, Melbourne.

According to the researchers, healthcare practitioners have expressed interest in expanding their probiotic knowledge, as the lack of knowledge could prevent them from providing appropriate recommendations.

A total of 30 pharmacists took part in the database pilot trial.

Out of the 25 pharmacists who gave their feedback, 13 (52 per cent) were practising in hospital settings while 12 (48 per cent) were practising in community settings.

Twenty-two of them (88 per cent) rated themselves as having ‘little’ or ‘medium’ probiotic knowledge.

The same number of pharmacists also said they received at least one enquiry on probiotics in the past year. Half of them added that they received an average of at least four enquiries each week.

Most enquiries were required them to recommend probiotic products for specific indications or to explain the uses of specific probiotic products.

“Consumers commonly consult their healthcare professionals in order to select the most appropriate probiotic product(s) from the numerous choices available.

“However, providing appropriate recommendations may be challenging for HCPs (healthcare practitioners). One major reason is that probiotic efficacy depends on several factors.Strain-specificity, whereby probiotics of the same genus and species but different strains, can impact the efficacy of the probiotics for the same indication,” ​said the researchers.

The database

Writing in the International Journal of Digital Health, ​the researchers said the database was built to showcase information on various probiotic product brands, such as the genus, species, and/or probiotics strains used, the prebiotic used, the dosing regimen, product benefits, the suitable age group for use, as well as scientific evidence available for these products.

The products were sourced from eight physical stores in Singapore and the local domain of seven online stores.

A total of 753 products were identified and included in the database.

The products were then matched to clinical trials that studied probiotic genus and species that were similarly used in the products.

The clinical trials were sourced from PubMed between January 2008 and June 2022.

The probiotics database has three features, allowing search by indication (patients’ conditions, for prevent or treatment, and age group), product (search for a specific probiotic product), or strain (products containing the desired probiotics, where they are able to search for up to four species or strains at any one time).

Running a search will yield a list of relevant probiotic products along with key product information, such as active ingredients, strength, indications, dosage regimen, suitability for special populations, storage conditions, and associated research details.

Community and hospital pharmacists from various institutions in Singapore were recruited to participate try out the database during 19 September to 5 October 2022.

They were provided with the web link​ to the probiotics database to explore and use as part of their practices and subsequently completed an online self-administered questionnaire to provide feedback.

The first version of the database was developed in 2020 and was trialled among pharmacists working in Watson’s.

The updated database used in this study has added 304 new probiotic products, as well as adding the ‘search by strain’ function.

Results

All 25 pharmacists who gave their feedback said that found the database easy to navigate.

Another set of findings published on Studies in Health Technology and Informatics ​found that all of the 25 pharmacists also agreed that the time taken to generate the results for their search input was “sufficiently quick”.

Twenty of them (88 per cent) said that their knowledge on probiotics has improved compared to before using the database.

Twenty-one of them (21 per cent) also said that they were able to assess the efficacy of a particular probiotic product with the help of the studies linked to the product.

However, only 18 of them (72 per cent) said they could find all the products that they were looking for in the database.

Future work to improve the robustness of the database includes expanding on the current probiotic indications to include niche conditions such as hepatic encephalopathy and bacterial peritonitis, said the researchers.

The database is still undergoing expansion and updates, with plans to expand its use beyond hospitals or retail pharmacies in Singapore and to include international users. 

 

 

Source 1: International Journal of Digital Health

An In-House Developed Probiotics Database E-Reference Information for Healthcare Professionals

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/38269801/

Authors: Budijono et al.

 

Source 2: Studies in Health Technology and Informatics

An In-House Developed Probiotics Database E-Reference Information for Healthcare Professionals

DOI: 10.3233/SHTI230963

Authors: A. Goh et al.

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