Antibiotics and probiotics are widely used as growth promoters in agriculture. Most antibiotics prescribed in clinical practice are natural products that originate from Streptomyces spp, which were first used as agricultural probiotics. Antibiotics and probiotics both modify the gut microbiota. The effect of a probiotic species on the digestive flora depends on the strain and is largely determined by bacteriocin production. In human beings, as in animals, specific probiotics are associated with weight gain or loss. Improved understanding of the ability of specific probiotics to harvest energy from the host diet might lead to development of new treatments for obesity and malnutrition. In this Review, we present the effects of probiotics and antibiotics on the gut microbiota of human beings and animals and discuss their potential therapeutic use as interventions for weight gain and loss in human beings.
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