An American start-up, Z-biotics, has just launched a GMO probiotic drink on the market.

Reminder: what is a GMO?

It is a living genetically modified organism. In other words, the genetic heritage or DNA, has been modified by humans. The living organism then has new properties that it did not possess naturally. They are regulated and you can find them in:

  • sweet corn as such,
  • in ingredients or additives derived from corn, soya, rapeseed or beetroot among others,
  • and more indirectly in animal feed

GMOs bring controversy in the agricultural, scientific and economic areas. Indeed, there are uncertainties about the use of GMOs on the environment, human health, animal and all living things at the ethical level. In addition, several multinationals hold patents on GMOs, allowing them to control global agriculture. This is a vast subject.

An unusual concept…

Z-biotics is a Californian company created in 2016. This firm decided to develop and commercialize a concept for the least original. Which one? A drink containing a GMO-probiotic to avoid miserable days after drinking. Finally, that’s what the company promises.

… composed of a GMO-probiotic

Why transforming the DNA of a probiotic? To potentiate the beneficial activity of the liver. This organ degrades a part of the ethanol (alcohol) in ethanal (acetaldehyde) then in acetate (acetic acid), thanks to an enzyme (aldehyde dehydrogenase). Acetate involves in the citrates cycle, fatty acids and in the cholesterol synthesis.

Nevertheless, the liver does not degrade all the alcohol. The remaining alcohol is metabolized in the intestines thanks to bacteria composing the microbiota. The alcohol is then converted to acetaldehyde but this newly formed acetaldehyde is less converted to acetate compared to the liver.

Z-biotics therefore wanted to develop a GMO-probiotic capable of degrading alcohol completely in the stomach and accelerate the process. The probiotic concerned is a Bacillus subtilis strain. A gene coding for the enzyme (aldehyde deshydrogenase) has therefore been added to its DNA.

… without substantiated evidence

In reality, there is no concrete scientific evidence to prove the “anti-hangover” effect of the drink. An in vitro study has shown that it is capable of degrading ethanol but no in vivo or clinical trials have been carried out to confirm it.

An in vivo rat study in August 2019 was conducted to show that its consumption for 90 days has no adverse effects. However, founder Zack Abbott assures that the product has been tested internally with placebo and that symptoms related to excessive alcohol consumption are less important…

Moreover, the website does not show any allegation about it so as not to fall under the drug regulation. This product is sold as a “functional drink”.

However, the drink which costs 36 dollars (32,5 €) for 3 bottles of 15 ml, must be consumed before drinking alcohol in order to obtain the best results. But what are the results?!

Besides the fact that this drink does not plead a reasoned consumption of alcohol, it can also lead us to ask some other questions. Will the consumption of a genetically modified bacterium not cause a microbiota’s imbalance (dysbiosis)? Can it colonize and proliferate in our intestines? What are the consequences of its ingestion?