Probiotics, the role of Bifidobacterium on the intestinal microbiome

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Bifidobacterium

Research on probiotic microorganisms continues with the ‘Exploring the Bifidobacterium species community and functional variations with human gut microbiome structure and health beyond childhood‘. The study (Ladeira et al., 2023) – financed and conducted by the Danone Global Research & Innovation Center, with the collaboration of the Micalis Institute (AgroParisTech, INRAE, Université Paris-Saclay) (1) – confirms and deepens some evidence that has already emerged in bibliography (2,3,4,5).

1) Bifidobacterium serving the intestinal microbiome

The Bifidobacterium are probiotic bacteria that reside primarily in the human gastrointestinal tract. This community of microorganisms plays a fundamental role in a series of vital functions:

– first of all, Bifidobacterium contribute to maintaining the integrity and health of the intestinal barrier, thanks to their competition with harmful pathogens,

– Bifidobacterium are also involved in the digestion of complex carbohydrates and produce various compounds which are in turn important for intestinal health such as butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid (6).

2) The study. Materials and methods

A systematic review under examination focused on the prevalence and role of Bifidobacterium Spp bacteria. in the human gut microbiome. The sequencing of a selection of 9.515 units – predominantly adults (92% of the sample), with a ‘Western’ lifestyle – made it possible to obtain high-quality genomic data and explore the variations in the composition of the microbiome in relation to various factors ( eg age, lifestyle, health conditions).

The metadata thus generated were processed via bioinformatics platforms to identify the Bifidobacterium species present in the samples and determine their relative abundance. While the ecological and functional analysis made it possible to explore the variability in the composition of the Bifidobacterium community and study its correlations with other bacteria present in the intestine.

Statistical analysis then evaluated the associations between the partitions of 32 Bifidobacterium strains, the composition of the gut microbiome and human health factors. The results were finally validated with specific analyzes on individual cohorts of adults.

3) Results

The results confirm considerable diversity in the human gut microbiome, with significant variations between individuals. Also noting key correlations between certain Bifidobacterium strains and greater gut microbiome diversity, which is in turn associated with increased butyrate-producing bacteria and gut health.

4) Limitations of the research

The limits of this important research (Ladeira et al., 2023), which therefore deserves further investigation, are linked to:

– lack of homogeneity of the technical parameters (experimental protocols, sequencing methods) adopted in the shared studies on which the research is based,

– limited availability of metadata. Diet, for example, plays a crucial role in modulating the intestinal microbiome. Carbohydrates have been positively associated with Bifidobacterium, but detailed analysis of dietary habits, variations in the LCT (lactase persistence) gene and related parameters could have provided further valuable information,

– transversality of the analysis. The data collected in this study offers a ‘snapshot’ of a significant number of samples. Certainly useful for identifying some species of Bifidobacterium such as B. longum, B. adolescents and B. bifidum which are known to be stable. Furthermore, the microbiome is dynamic and a longitudinal analysis could have provided a more in-depth view of its variations over time.

5) Provisional conclusions

The breadth of this study and its focus on the community of Bifidobacterium Spp., albeit with the limitations mentioned above, stimulates further research on the ecology and variability of this and other species of probiotic bacteria in the intestinal microbiome.

Further details will be able to confirm the key role of diet, as well as environmental factors, in the variation of the intestinal microbiome and human health. Perhaps the most probable horizon in disease prevention. (6)

Dario Dongo and Gabriele Sapienza

Footnotes

(1) Ladeira R, Tap J, Derrien M. Exploring Bifidobacterium species community and functional variations with human gut microbiome structure and health beyond infancy. Microbiome Res Rep 2023;2:9. http://dx.doi.org/10.20517/mrr.2023.01

(2) Dario Dongo, Carlotta Suardi. More probiotics, less antibiotics. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 2.10.18

(3) Dario Dongo, Carlotta Suardi. Prebiotics and probiotics, microbiome and immune system. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 28.4.20,

(4) Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. Camel milk, a supply of probiotics that are health allies. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 24.6.21

(5) Giulia Pietrolini. Probiotics, prebiotics and psychobiotics, a revolution for mental health? GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 14.2.23

(6) Gabriele Sapienza, Dario Dongo. Probiotics, potential anti-inflammatory activity of Lactobacillus spp. and Rhodopseudomonas palustris. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 16.8.23

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

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Graduated in Agronomy, with experience in sustainable agriculture and permaculture, laboratory and ecological monitoring.