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From the Townsend Letter
August/September 2015

Probiotics vs. Heavy Metals: A Win for the Good Guys
by Bob Frost
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1.   Bisanz JE, Enos MK, Mwanga JR, et al. Randomized open-label pilot study of the influence of probiotics and the gut microbiome on toxic metal levels in Tanzanian pregnant women and school children. mBio. 2014 Sep–Oct; 5(5):e01580-14.
2.   Monachese M, Burton JP, Reid G. Bioremediation and tolerance of humans to heavy metals through microbial processes: a potential role for probiotics? Appl Environ Microbiol. 2012 Sep; 78(18):6397–6404.
3.   Bose-O'Reilly S, Lettmeier B, Roider G, Siebert U, Drasch G. Mercury in breast milk – a health hazard for infants in gold mining areas? Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2008 Oct;211(5–6):615–623.
4.   Hussein Were F, Njue W, Murungi J, Wanau R. Use of human nails as bio-indicators of heavy metals environmental exposure among school age children in Kenya. Sci Total Environ. 2008 Apr 15;393(2–3):376–384.
5.   Gibb H, O'Leary KG. Mercury exposure and health impacts among individuals in the artisanal and small-scale gold mining community: a comprehensive review. Environ Health Perspect. 2014 Jul; 122(7):667–672.
6.   Choi YH, Hu H, Mukherjee B, Miller J, Park SK. Environmental cadmium and lead exposures and hearing loss in U.S. adults: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999 to 2004. Environ Health Perspect. 2012 Nov;120(11):1544–1550.
7.   Murata K, Iwata T, Dakeishi M, Karita K. Lead toxicity: does the critical level of lead resulting in adverse effects differ between adults and children? J Occup Health. 2009;51(1):1–12.
8.   Gump BB, Mackenzie JA, Bendinskas K, et al. Low-level Pb and cardiovascular responses to acute stress in children: the role of cardiac autonomic regulation. Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2011 Mar–Apr;33(2):212–219.
9.   Liptak A. Supreme court seems split on what is "appropriate" in setting clean air costs. New York Times. March 26, 2015. Available at
10. Mercury levels in commercial fish and shellfish (1990-2010) [Web page]. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.; Consumer guide to mercury in fish [Web page]. Natural Resources Defense Council.
11. Reid G, Chan RC, Bruce AW, Costerton JW. Prevention of urinary tract infection in rats with an indigenous Lactobacillus casei strain. Infect Immun. 1985 Aug; 49(2):320–324.
12. Reid G, Bruce AW. Selection of Lactobacillus strains for urogenital  probiotic applications. J Infect Dis. 2001 Mar 1;183 Suppl 1:S77–S80.

Bob Frost


Bob Frost is a journalist in San Francisco specializing in coverage of health topics. He wrote about health care for many years for West, the Sunday magazine of the San Jose Mercury News, newspaper of record for Silicon Valley, including cover stories about pain, allergies, and the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918. His e-mail address is




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