Where did BLIS Probiotics come from?
The story behind BLIS® dates back to the late 1950’s. A young boy in Melbourne, Australia called John Tagg contracted a bacterial sore throat (Group A Strep) that was left untreated. It caused the boy to contract rheumatic fever. The treatment for rheumatic fever back in the 1950’s (and still today) was prophylactic penicillin for 10 years! This young boy went through his teenage years ‘smelling like fungus’ due to the penicillin and it had a life-affirming impact on what he would dedicate the rest of his life to do.
Skip forward a few years and John Tagg is sitting in a microbiology lecture at Melbourne University and his professor (Dr. Rose Mushin) is feeding her students e-coli bacteria to understand the impact it had on the gut (work that was instrumental in gut probiotic science) and John Tagg has an epiphany. What if I could apply the same probiotic theory to the throat? Could I find a good bacterial strain that meant that no one had to experience what I experienced?
30 years later, John is now a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Otago University in NZ studying a cohort of Dunedin School children. He does this for 6 years; tracking their throat health across that time. He finds that some children seem to have a rare balance of bacteria in their mouths. There is one particular strain of bacteria that is abundant in their mouths and lacking in almost all the others. That strain is Streptococcus salivarius K12, and today is known as BLIS K12™.
BLIS K12 is a strain of bacteria that naturally resides in the mouths of healthy people, but studies have shown that only 2-5% of the population are blessed with naturally high levels of it, so the rest of us can only benefit by supplementing our oral cavity with BLIS K12. But why is it so special? It is in the name, literally. What John discovered was not only that the strain existed but that it was a very special bug. It not only had the ability to colonise strongly in the mouth and crowd out the nasty bacteria, it also produces little bacterial ‘bullets’ that inhibit the bad bacteria. These are referred to as Bacteriocin Like Inhibitory Substances or BLIS.
Blis Technologies Ltd went live in Dunedin in August 2000 and two years later the first oral probiotic product containing BLIS K12™ “Throat Guard” appeared on the shelves of New Zealand pharmacies.
Prof. Tagg continued to look for bacterial strains that could provide benefit to human health and his next discovery was another Streptococcus salivarius strain called M18, or BLIS M18™ as it is known. It works in a similar way but has a different set of bad bugs that it targets which reside more around the teeth and gums.
Today, John is as dedicated to his work as he ever has been and is regularly in the lab looking for more ground-breaking scientific breakthroughs in the area of probiotics alongside a talented team of scientists.
The BLIS Probiotics portfolio continues to be strengthened by ongoing scientific trials and new strain discovery to unlock the potential of the human microbiome.