The Amazing History Of Saccharomyces Boulardii

Today, Saccharomyces boulardii is not only a common probiotic supplement strain, but also a clinically proven therapy used in hospitals around the world to help combat such infections as C. difficile and H. pylori. You might be surprised to know that the story of this revered probiotic (which is actually a type of yeast) and its namesake begins with wine. Henri Boulard was a French biologist who got his start as an agronomist- an expert in soil management and crop production. In 1923, his career led him to southeast Asia in search of a yeast that was heat-resistant for the production of wine.

During Boulard's prior research a decade earlier, he noted that yeast strains from this region were much heartier than those found in Europe. While his research was strictly agricultural in nature, Boulard was fascinated by yeast and all of its applications. That's when one of many horrific cholera outbreaks during his expedition gave him the opportunity to leave his mark on microbiology and medicine.

Cholera is an infection of the small intestine by some strains of the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Symptoms range from mild to severe with the classic symptom being large amounts of watery diarrhea that lasts several days. Vomiting and muscle cramps may also occur. The diarrhea can be so severe that extreme dehydration and dangerous electrolyte imbalance can occur within hours.

Cholera outbreaks were common in southeast Asia during this time and treatment options were limited. However, Boulard noticed that certain infected locals would consume the skins of lychee and mangosteen fruit and their symptoms, particularly diarrhea, would dissipate greatly. Boulard isolated the yeast strain from this fruit and sold it to a French pharmaceutical company where its use eventually expanded worldwide.

Saccharomyces boulardii doesn't require refrigeration and survives passage through the GI tract. This hearty yeast treats and prevents diarrhea, including infectious types such as rotaviral diarrhea, inhibits the growth of pathogens such as Candida albicans and releases a protease enzyme that is able to digest Clostridium difficile toxins A and B. As more is learned about Saccharomyces boulardii and its far reaching health benefits, we can look back and thank Henri Boulard, the wine industry and the wisdom of southeast Asian holistic medicine for this incredible probiotic therapy.