Scientific names vs trade names for probiotic strainsby Martin Macouzet, Ph. D. on 10/01/12
What is regarded as good marketing by many business people seems to be an unacceptable aberration for most scientists and a deceiving selling ploy for consumers’ associations. Who is right?
Several companies have trademarked particular probiotic strains giving them Latinized and hence scientific sounding names that suggest they are naturally associated with certain health benefits. Accordingly, we have witnessed the appearance of names such as Lactobacillus reuteri Protectis, L. reuteri Prodentis, L. casei defensis, Bifidus ProDigestis, Bifidus regularis or Bifidus digestivum among others.
Consumers are very confused about probiotics. They do not understand why so many health benefits are attributed to these organisms; why there are so many names for probiotics and why those names are so complicated and hard to pronounce. Allegedly, “re-baptising” probiotic strains with suggestive names could help consumers identifying them and associating them with the potential health benefit they are supposed to impart, thus contributing to consumer awareness and education. On the other hand, this approach is tantamount to making a health claim and consumers may be misled to believe that the trade name is the scientific name, which lends what may be underserved legitimacy to the implied claim. Moreover, this practice makes it more complicated for consumers and even for health practitioners to associate the “re-baptised” strains with what is reported in scientific or popularization literature.
These trade names have another function in some specific cases; i.e. masking certain species names that could apparently give a dissuasive impression to consumers. The classic example is Bifidobacterium animalis, which might supposedly be rejected thinking that it is “from” or “for” animals. Some consider this as a ridiculous excuse, but since scientific names are often associated with the original source of the microorganisms, some potential probiotics could eventually carry any of the following names: salivarius, vaginalis, fornicalis or faecalis among other names that are not precisely tempting.
What do you think? Should this practice be fomented or abolished?
Ref: Macouzet, M (2012). Alternatives for communicating the health benefits of probiotics.
Probiotic Intelligentsia 1(2):15-27, ISSN 1929-2503