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Bacteroides, our most abundant gram-negative bacteria

 

17th April 2019 

Translated from the original article in Catalan.

 

What are Bacteroides ?

Bacteroides is the best-known genus of the most abundant gram-negative bacterial group within us, specifically in the intestine. They are up to 8·1010 per gram of stool. They are strict anaerobes, non-sporulated, non-mobile, with a form of rod with rounded tips (Figure 1). They are resistant to bile salts, at the concentration of 20% of the small intestine, and they have a good ability to use polysaccharides.

 

Fig1 Gerard F2.large

Figure 1. Electronic micrograph of cells of Bacteroides sp. D8 (Gerard et al 2007)

First of all, it should be noted that there are excellent revisions of Bacteroides, such as that of Wexler (2007), describing their beneficial aspects in the intestinal microbiota, which we will comment on here, as well as the toxic aspects and other characteristics.

Bacteroides live exclusively in the gastrointestinal tract of animals, and therefore they show great flexibility to adapt to the nutritional conditions of the intestinal environment. As commensals and mutualists, they establish long-term partnerships with the guests and provide them with benefits. The adaptation of these bacteria includes making modifications to this environment. For instance, many Bacteroides code for cytochrome bd oxidase, which can reduce oxygen concentrations, making it easier for them to grow as strict anaerobes, and at the same time, other bacteria of the usual microbiota also benefit from this (Wexler, Goodman 2017).

The most common substrates of these bacteria are the vegetable polysaccharides of the diet and of host’s mucus (Wexler, Goodman 2017). These carbohydrates are degraded and fermented, producing mainly short-chain fatty acids (SCFA). Bacteroides are the main producers of propionate in intestinal tract, and this acid is one of the beneficial SCFA, together with acetate and butyrate, because they are an energy source for colonocytes and contribute to maintenance of the correct glucose homeostasis and lipid metabolism (Ríos-Covián et al 2017). Bacteroides also remove side chains from bile salts, facilitating the return of bile acids to liver circulation. On the other hand, another beneficial aspect is that they exclude other possible pathogens as they colonize the intestinal tract and do not let others settle.

Due to the fact that the animal’s intestinal tract is the main habitat and environmental reservoir of Bacteroides, it is thought that there has been a symbiotic evolutionary relationship between these bacteria and the hosts (Troy, Kasper 2010). As in many other evolutionary cases, this mutual commensalism between microorganisms and hosts is almost a symbiosis, where virtually each of the organisms cannot live without the other.

As habitual residents of the intestine, the vast majority of Bacteroides are not harmful, on the contrary. Nevertheless, in conditions of metabolic imbalances such as diabetes or surgical patients, some of them are opportunistic and can be pathogens, and some have a certain resistance to antibiotics. In fact, B. fragilis, the most abundant species in the microbiota of healthy people, can give in these cases very serious infections and is the most important anaerobic pathogen bacterium in humans (Mancuso et al 2005). The abundance of B. fragilis is evident even because their bacteriophages are used as tracers of human faecal matter in water (Jofre et al 1995).

 

What kind of bacteria is Bacteroides ?

As detailed in the NCBI Taxonomy section, the genus Bacteroides is a bacterium of the Fibrobacter-Chlorobi-Bacteroidetes superphylum. We can see its phylogenetic relationship with other bacterial groups in Figure 2. Bacteroidetes phylum also includes Cytophaga, Flavobacter and Sphingobacter, in addition to the Bacteroidia class, which mainly includes the Bacteroidales order. This includes 2 families: the Bacteroidaceae and the Prevotellaceae. Besides Bacteroides, Prevotella is another of the best-known genera, which in fact was previously known as B. melaninogenicus.

 

Fig2 Bern 12862_2004_Article_146_Fig1_HTML

Figure 2. Phylogenetic tree of the bacterial groups (Bern, Goldberg 2005).

 

Bacteroides, some of the predominant in the human intestinal microbiota

The human intestinal microbiota, and from mammals in general, is very complex, but surprisingly, there are few phyla that predominate. Specifically, 98% of identified bacteria in humans (Figure 3) belong to 4 phyla: 64% Firmicutes, 23% Bacteroidetes, 8% Proteobacteria and 3% Actinobacteria. Therefore, Bacteroidetes are one of the most predominant bacteria in the intestinal microbiota. In fact, since Firmicutes are such a large and diverse phylum, which includes microbes as diverse as clostridial and lactic acid bacteria, it can be considered that Bacteroidetes, as a much more homogeneous group, are practically the predominant ones.

Fig3 brock 767 modif

Figure 3. Bacterial composition of the human colon deduced from the 16S rRNA obtained from 17242 sequences of faecal samples (Madigan et al 2012)

 

To see in depth the predominant species of the intestinal microbiota, very recently, a metagenomic and functional study of 737 genomes sequenced from bacterial isolates of faecal samples from 20 British and American adults (Forster et al 2019) has been done. 273 bacterial species have been detected, of which 105 had not been found before. As we can see (Figure 4), among the 20 dominant species there are 8 Bacteroides, plus 2 Parabacteroides, that is 10 Bacteroidales, signalled in green. Therefore, they are half of the majority species. The other 10 are 6 clostridial (Firmicutes, in blue), 3 are Actinobacteria (in yellow) and 1 is Proteobacteria (in orange).

Fig4 Forster 2019 Fig4

Figure 4. Major species of the human intestinal microbiota, detected with metagenomic data analyses (Forster et al 2019).

 

Although the microbiota is different in each person, at the strain level the individual microbiota is very stable. In a study with 37 healthy people (Faith et al 2013) about 200 strains of 100 different species have been found, and 60% of the strains remain for each person in a period of 5 years. Of those that remain, those of Bacteroidetes and Actinobacteria are the most stable.

In the same study (Faith et al 2013), gut microbiota of 6 people in the same family have been compared and it has been found that among the 75 most common bacterial species in the 6 persons, 18 are Bacteroidetes (24%): 11 Bacteroides, 3 Parabacteroides, AlistipesBarnesiella, Odoribacter and Butyricimonas. The only species of the 75 found in everybody is a Bacteroides: B. vulgatus.

The microbiota that accompanies us is changing throughout life (Figure 5). In fact, there are relatively few Bacteroides in the babies. However, these bacteria are already present among the few microbes of the placenta, where Proteobacteria predominate (Aagard et al 2014). After the birth, Bacteroides are increasing over the first months and years, mainly with the weaning and diet changes, as microbial diversity increases. Then, in adults Bacteroides are ones of the most abundant microbes (Gómez-Gallego, Salminen 2016).

Fig5 GomezGallego fig 1

Figure 5. Changes in the human microbiota throughout life (Gómez-Gallego, Salminen 2016).

 

Solid food intake in children, between 4 months and 1 year, causes a significant increase in Bacteroidetes (Figure 6). We see the great difference in the microbial composition from 118 day to 370. It is a pity that in this study (Koenig et al 2011) no more intermediate samples were took between these days, where little by little children go from porridge and a bit of cereals, to the ingestion of peas and other legumes, carrots, potatoes, etc. This increase in Bacteroidetes with solid food is surely related to the fact that Bacteroidetes are specialists in the breakdown of complex polysaccharides, and at the same time these compounds promote their growth. At the same time, there is a clear increase in the levels of AGCC, an enrichment of microbial genes associated with the use of carbohydrates, a greater biosynthesis of vitamins, and also an increase of xenobiotic degradation. Therefore, the role of Bacteroidetes seems primordial in the establishment and maintenance of the adult’s microbiota. Even though there are differences between individuals, once adult, microbial composition is quite stable throughout life, with certain variations depending on changes in diet or habitat or medication.

Fig6 Koenig fig 3

Figure 6. Metagenomic analysis of DNA sequences extracted from faecal samples of children (Koenig et al 2011).

 

Bacteroides in other mammals

The intestinal microbiota is present in all animals with a more or less developed digestive system. Apart from the insects, whose microbiota has been deeply studied (Engel, Moran 2013), the most studied in this aspect are mammals, of course. Their composition has been studied (Ley et al 2008), specifically in faecal samples of 106 individuals of 60 species of 13 different taxa, including human, other primates, herbivores, carnivores and omnivores.

Of the 17 bacterial phyla found, 65% were Firmicutes, 16% Bacteroidetes, 8% Proteobacteria and 5% Actinobacteria, among others. Therefore, the relevance of the Bacteroides is evident, and the proportions are similar to those mentioned above for humans. Regarding the majority group of Firmicutes, it is a pity that this work, like others, does not distinguish between different groups, especially among lactic acid bacteria and Clostridiales. Curiously in this work there is a greater presence of Bacteroides in primates and omnivores in general, and also in some herbivores, than in carnivores (Figure 7). In these there are very few Bacteroides, and instead there are more gamma-Proteobacteria, probably enterobacteria (Ley et al 2008).

Fig7 Ley fig S1A

Figure 7. Percentage of faecal samples sequences of different mammals assigned to the main different bacterial phyla (Ley et al 2008)

 

Different Bacteroidales are biomarkers of lifestyles

In the search for microbial taxa that could be biomarkers of diets or lifestyles, it has been seen that the biomarker more clearly related with people from rich western countries is the genus Bacteroides, whereas to the sub-Saharan ones it is Prevotella, another one of the same phylum. These two genera, together with some from the clostridia group, are the most abundant ones.

If the long-term majority diet is rich in animal proteins and fats, as in Western countries, Bacteroides predominates, and if the diet is rich in carbohydrates like in sub-Saharan countries, Prevotella prevails (Gorvitovskaia et al 2016).

 

What about Bacteroides in cases of dysfunction?

The beneficial relevance of Bacteroides, or their group, Bacteroidetes,on health is obvious in cases of diseases or dysfunctions such as allergies or obesity (Figure 8), where the diversity of the microbiota is much lower, and the number of Bacteroidetes is low.

Fig8 GomezGallego fig 2

Figure 8. Changes in the microbiota in dysfunctional situations such as allergies and obesity. (Gómez-Gallego, Salminen 2016).

 

Bacteroides against obesity

Well-known experiments of intestinal microbiota in relation to obesity have been those carried out with mice without previous microbiota colonized with microbiota from human twins of which one was obese and the other lean (Ridaura et al 2013). The result was that the mice with obese twin microbiota (Ob) became obese, while those of lean twin microbiota remained lean (Ln) (Figure 9). In addition, in the lean mice a greater intestinal production of SCFA and a greater microbial transformation of the bile acids were observed, whereas in the obese there was a greater metabolism of branched amino acids.

As mentioned in the previous section, in the obese mice a reduction of 50% Bacteroidetes is observed, apart from an increase in Firmicutes and methanogens (Figure 10). And as we see the Archaea methanogens decrease the hydrogen, producing methane, and the lower level of hydrogen promotes fermentation of ingested food in excess by the Firmicutes.

Fig9 mice obese lean Kay Chersnush

Figure 9. Obese and lean mice resulting from colonization with gut microbiota from obese and lean human twins respectively (image of Kay Chernush / Getty Images).

 

Fig10 brock 768 modif

Figure 10. Differences in intestinal microbial communities between lean (left) and obese (right) mice (Madigan et al 2012).

 

The most surprising, however, of this work (Ridaura et al 2013) is the cohabitation experiment of the two types Ob and Ln mice, where it is observed that after 10 days of coexisting together, the obese have diminished their body fat (Figure 11), and when their microbiota have been studied by sequencing, a transfer of the microbiota from lean mice to obese is observed (Figure 12). As we can see, the main bacteria transferred are Bacteroidales, which strengthens the importance of these bacteria.

Fig11 ridaura change body

Figure 11. Adiposity (% body fat) of obese (Ob) and lean mice (Ln), and the same after 10 days of cohabitation in the same cage (Obch and Lnch) (Ridaura et al 2013).

 

Fig12 ridaura ob ln bacteroi

Figure 12. Demonstration of the transfer of Bacteroidales (7 species: 5 Bacteroides, 1 Parabacteroides and 1 Alistipes) of the intestinal microbiota of lean mice (Lnch)  to the obese (Obch) after 10 days of cohabitation in the same cage. Each column corresponds to a mouse (Ridaura et al 2013).

 

Bacteroides against cholesterol

It has been known for many years that the intestinal microbiota is able to convert cholesterol in its saturated form, coprostanol (Figure 13). In other mammals some Eubacterium (belonging to the clostridial group) have been found to be responsible, but in humans we did not know what microorganisms could do it. Recently Gérard et al (2007) have isolated a strain of human stool that is able to do it and has been identified as Bacteroides, probably a species close to B. vulgatus.

Fig13 Gerard colesterol

Figure 13. Formulas of cholesterol and coprostanol (Gerard et al 2007)

 

Glycans (polysaccharides), important for mutualism between Bacteroides and the human host

Most non-digested macromolecules that reach the colon are glycans (word virtually synonymous of polysaccharides), which are a very important part of the fibre. The only glycan that is practically digested previously in the small intestine is starch. The consortium of microorganisms that inhabit the colon produces a huge enzymatic repertoire with the ability to degrade a range of complex polysaccharides that the host cannot process. That’s why the intestinal microbiota is often referred to as a metabolic organ.

On the other hand, the abundant commensal microbes of the intestinal microbiota must resist the inhospitable conditions of the previous sections and to settle in the colon without affecting the host. Therefore, instead of interacting with the epithelial cells of the intestine, they remain in the external mucus layer on the epithelial surface. At the same time, this mucus protects resident microbes from attacks by other bacteria and bacteriophages, and it is a nutrient substrate. It has been shown that the ability to survive in this ecosystem is closely related to the use and production of glycans by resident bacteria (Comstock 2009).

Well, precisely this ability to interact with glycans is an important characteristic of Bacteroidales, which, as we have seen, are the most abundant microorganisms in the intestine, along with Firmicutes. In fact, Bacteroidales have an extensive enzymatic machinery to use the complex polysaccharides present in the colon, and use them as a source of carbon and energy. This great capacity has been proven by sequencing the genome of B. thetaiotaomicron (Xu et al 2003) where it has found containing more than 80 loci of polysaccharides that encode proteins related to the detection, importation and degradation of specific glycans of the colon.

As we can see (Figure 14), Bacteroides use both the glycans of the host’s diet and those produced by the intestinal epithelium, they metabolize them, and produce the beneficial SCFA, and on the other hand, they synthesize glycans that accumulate in the form of exopolysaccharide (EPS) contributing to form biofilms, and in capsules that give immune signals to the host (Comstock 2009). All in all, the relevance of the glycans in the mutual relations between Bacteroides and the human host is confirmed.

Fig14 Comstock F1

Figure 14. Use and production of glycans (polysaccharides) by Bacteroides. IM (inner membrane): cytoplasmic membrane; OM (outer membrane): external part of the gram-negative cell wall; EPS: exopolysaccharide of mucosal layers, not covalently linked, unlike the capsular polysaccharide (Comstock 2009).

 

In addition to the glycans produced by the host, some Bacteroides can also use those that produce other microorganisms of the microbiota, as shown by B. fragilis, the most frequent species on the surface of the intestinal mucosa, which can metabolize exopolysaccharides produced by bifidobacteria (Ríos-Covian et al 2016). EPS production for bifidobacteria is stimulated by bile. This ability of B. fragilis to use EPS of bifidobacteria gives them more survival capacity when nutrients are scarce. At the same time, the degradation of the EPS can affect the viability of the bifidobacteria, and therefore, Bacteroidales would have a regulatory role of the intestinal microbiota in general.

Some glycans produced by Bacteroidales have a beneficial effect on the host’s immune system. In particular, it has been seen that polysaccharide A (PSA) produced by B. fragilis is able to activate the immune response on T-cells dependent, which influences the development and homeostasis of the immune system (Troy, Kasper 2010). In fact, the colonization of germ-free mice (without microbiota) with B .fragilis is sufficient to correct the previous imbalance of cells Th1 and Th2 (T helper) (Figure 15). In addition, PSA can protect against colitis, such as those produced by Helicobacter, by repressing proinflammatory cytokines associated with another type of T cells -Th17- and other mechanisms (Mazmanian et al 2008).

Fig15 Troy Fig1 PSA B fragilis

Figure 15. Impact of polysaccharide A (PSA) of Bacteroides fragilis in the development of the immune system by recovering the balance of Th1/Th2 cells (Troy, Kasper 2010).

 

The diet can make Bacteroides contribute to a good metabolic balance

In relation to said above about glycans such as EPS, it has been seen that if in the environment there is little organic nitrogen and an easily fermentable carbon source such as glucose, Bacteroides produce more lactate and less propionate, and instead with more organic nitrogen (yeast extract) and polysaccharides, these bacteria produce more propionate (Ríos-Covián et al 2017). When EPS are present, as more complex carbohydrates and slowly fermented, the carbon of the amino acids can be incorporated at the level of pyruvate, and then the path to succinate and propionate is enhanced and the redox equilibrium is maintained. Since a higher propionate production is beneficial to the host, these authors conclude that in cases of host metabolic dysfunctions, a good diet design (complex carbohydrates with organic nitrogen) would help to modify metabolic activity of Bacteroides, and these would help promote healthy effects to the host, in addition to interacting with the other beneficial bacteria.

 

Bacteroides as probiotics?

EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) has not accepted virtually any claim of positive effects of probiotics on health due to the restrictive requirements of studies with humans. The mechanism of probiotics action is strain-dependent and often is not well known. In addition, it could be that the incorporated bacteria did not produce sufficient measurable changes in healthy individuals to obtain a claim of health effect. Further studies at the genetic level, antibiotic resistance profile and probiotic selection criteria are required.

Traditional probiotics are mostly Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, but also some strains of other lactic acid bacteria, and from Bacillus, E. coli and Saccharomyces. Besides these, the so-called “next generation” probiotics are being introduced, thanks mainly to new culture and sequencing techniques. Among these new possible probiotics, there are the verrucomicrobial Akkermansia muciniphila, and some clostridia (see my post), like Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, the main producer of butyrate, but also some Bacteroidales. These ones also have a clear advantage over clostridia and other Firmicutes, because are much more stable in the intestinal tract throughout the life of the person (Faith et al 2013).

As we have seen, being some of the most abundant microorganisms in our intestinal microbiota, Bacteroides generally have clear benefits for the host, such as fighting against obesity, or cholesterol. Transplants of faecal microbiota for diarrhea associated with Clostridium difficile infections are being successful (Van Nood et al 2013) and therefore there is a clear possibility of using some specific strain or several ones, and in this way the Bacteroides are clear candidates due to their abundance in the samples of faecal microbiota.

In addition to those mentioned, other benefits of Bacteroides are those related to the immune system, at the level of cytokines and T cells and development of antibodies, in order to treat intestinal colitis, immune dysfunction, disorders of metabolism and even cancer prevention (Tan et al 2019).

Apart from the benefits shown to the host, a bacterial strain must have unambiguous security status in order to be considered probiotic. In the case of Bacteroides, recently, a strain (DSM 23964) of B. xylanisolvens isolated from stools of healthy humans has been studied and it has been shown to have no virulence determinants which have been found in some opportunistic Bacteroides, such as the enterotoxin bft and enzymatic biodegradative activities of extracellular matrix and PSA. This strain does not have resistance to antibiotics – although it is resistant to some – and no plasmids have been detected, which makes the transfer of possible resistance very unlikely. Therefore, this strain seems very safe (Ulsemer et al 2012a). It has also been seen that it does not adhere to the walls of the intestine, but it resists the action of gastric enzymes and low pH. In addition, as indicated by the name of the species, it degrades xylan and other pectins. These heteropolysaccharides are prebiotics, compounds that are beneficial for the gut microbiota.

Other basic probiotic characteristics found in this strain of B. xylanisolvens are the production of SCFA and immunomodulatory properties. These properties and the safety and good tolerance of this strain have been verified by incorporating it in fermented milk, after inactivation by heat. This milk has been ingested in trials by healthy humans, with safe effects (Ulsemer et al 2012b). Its safety has also been confirmed in studies of toxicity in mice, where high doses of the strain have not produced toxic or mutagenic effects, neither haematological nor histopathological damage (Ulsemer et al 2012c).

On the basis of these studies, the European Food Safety Authority has given the approval as a new food of the use of fermented milks with B. xylanisolvens DSM 23964 pasteurized (EFSA 2015). However, there is no claim to consider it as a probiotic, especially because bacteria are not viable as the product has been pasteurized, and by definition, probiotics should be living microorganisms.

 

Perspectives

We have seen the relevance of Bacteroides as one of the main components of the human intestinal microbiota and mammals in general. In addition to its fundamental role in the intestine and the possibilities of its use as a probiotic, it is an ideal model for the study of gut bacteria, because it is relatively easy of cultivating and has the potential to be genetically manipulated (Wexler, Goodman 2017). Therefore, it is necessary to deepen the knowledge of Bacteroidales, and in particular to know how they metabolize the host’s nutrients or mucus, or how they respond to changes in the host’s diet, or how they interact with the other microorganisms of the digestive tract. A better understanding of all these mechanisms will favour the design of therapeutics aimed at modifying the microbiota of patients suffering from various diseases and metabolic disorders linked to the intestinal microbiota (Wexler, Goodman 2017).

 

Bibliography

Aagaard K(2014) The placenta harbors a unique microbiome. Sci Transl Med 6, 237ra65

Bern M, Goldberg D (2005) Automatic selection of representative proteins for bacterial phylogeny. BMC Evolut Biol 5:34

Comstock LE (2009) Importance of glycans to the host – Bacteroides mutualism in the mammalian intestine. Cell Host & Microbe 5, 522-526

EFSA, European Food Safety Authority (2015) Scientific opinion on the safety of “heat-treated milk products fermented with Bacteroides xylanisolvens DSM 23964″ as a novel food. EFSA J 13(1):3956

Engel P, Moran NA (2013) The gut microbiota of insects – diversity in structure and function. FEMS Microbiol Rev 37, 699-735

Faith JJ et al (2013) The long-term stability of the human gut microbiota. Science 341, 1237439

Forster et al (2019) A human gut bacterial genome and culture collection for improved metagenomic analyses. Nature Biotechnol 37, 186-192

Gérard P et al (2007) Bacteroidessp. strain D8, the first cholesterol-reducing bacterium isolated from human feces. Appl Env Microbiol 73, 5742-5749

Gómez-Gallego C, Salminen S (2016) Novel probiotics and prebiotics: how can they help in human gut microbiota dysbiosis ? Appl Food Biotechnol 3, 72-81

Gorvitovskaia A et al (2016) Interpreting Prevotella and Bacteroides as biomarkers of diet and lifestyle. Microbiome 4:15, 1-12

Jofre J et al (1995) Potential usefulness of bacteriophages that infect Bacteroides fragilis as model organisms for monitoring virus removal in drinking water treatment plants. Appl Environ Microbiol 61, 3227-3231

Koenig JE et al (2011) Succession of microbial consortia in the developing infant gut microbiome. PNAS 108, 4578-4585

Ley RE et al (2008) Evolution of mammals and their gut microbes. Science 320, 1647-1651

Madigan MT, Martinko JM, Stahl DA, Clark DP (2012) Brock Biology of Microorganisms. 13th Ed. Pearson

Mancuso G et al (2005) Bacteroides fragilis – derived lipopolysaccharide produces cell activation and lethal toxicity via Toll-like receptor 4. Infect Immunity 73, 5620-5627

Mazmanian et al (2008) A microbial symbiosis factor prevents intestinal infammatory disease. Nature 453, 620-625

Ridaura VK et al (2013) Gut microbiota from twins discordant for obesity modulate metabolism in mice. Science 341, 1241214

Ríos-Covian et al (2016) Bacteroides fragilis metabolises exopolysaccharides produced by bifidobacteria. BMC Microbiol 16, 150

Ríos-Covian et al (2017) Shaping the metabolism of intestinal Bacteroides population through diet to improve human health. Front Microbiol 8, 376

Tan H et al (2019) Investigations of Bacteroides spp., towards next-generation probiotics. Food Res Internat 116, 637-644

Troy EB, Kasper DL (2010) Beneficial effects of Bacteroides fragilis polysaccharides on the immune system. Front Biosci 1, 15:25-34.

Ulsemer P et al (2012)a Preliminary safety evaluation of a new Bacteroides xylanisolvens isolate. Appl Env Microbiol 78, 528-535

Ulsemer P et al (2012)b Safety and tolerance of Bacteroides xylanisolvens DSM 23964 in healthy adults. Benef Microb 3, 99-111

Ulsemer P et al (2012)c Safety assesment of the commensal strain Bacteroides xylanisolvens DSM 23964. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol 62, 336-346

Van Nood E (2013) Duodenal infusion of donor feces for recurrent Clostridium difficile. New Eng J Medicine 368, 407-415

Wexler HA (2007) Bacteroides: the Good, the Bad, and the Nitty-Gritty. Clin Microbiol Rev 20, 593-621

Wexler AG, Goodman AL (2017) An insider’s perspective: Bacteroides as a window into the microbiome. Nat Microbiol 2, 17026

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Lactic acid bacteria of beers: the bad guys and the good ones

28th October 2018

It is not easy to “live” in the beer

In principle, lactic acid bacteria (LAB) and many other bacteria and generally most microorganisms, do not have it easy to survive in beer or other alcoholic beverages such as wine. This is one of the main reasons why wines and beers have been from ancient times the safest ways to drink hygienically something similar to water and that it was not contaminated, apart from boiled waters, such as tea and other herbal infusions.

The reasons for the difficult survival of microorganisms in beer are ethanol, the pH quite acidic (around 4), the lack of nutrients due to the fact that the yeasts have assimilated them, the little dissolved oxygen, the high concentration of carbon dioxide (0.5% by weight / volume) and the presence of humulone derived compounds (Figure 1) of hops: iso-alpha-acids, up to 50 ppm, which are microbiocides. All these obstacles make it very difficult for any microorganism to thrive. The most susceptible beers of unwanted microbial growth are those where some of the mentioned obstacles are dampened: beers with a higher pH of 4.5, or with little ethanol or little CO2, or with added sugars – which are nutrients -, or with little amount of compounds derived from hops (Vriesekoop et al 2012).

Fig 1 512px-S-Humulone_Isomerization.svg

Figure 1. Humulone (left) of the hop is degraded during beer elaboration to isohumulone (right) and other iso-alpha-acids, which are compounds bitter and microbiocides (Wikipedia; Sakamoto & Konings 2003)

 

The acid pH of the beer (slightly higher than the wine) inhibits many of the best-known pathogens (Figure 2). And the cases we see that could grow at this pH near 4 are inhibited by other factors such as ethanol.

Fig 2 Menz 2009 jib49-fig-0002-m

Figure 2. Range of acid pH for the growth of various bacteria, compared to the typical beer pH (Menz et al 2009).

 

The “bad” lactic acid bacteria of beer

Despite what we have just seen, some bacteria, particularly some LAB, have been able to adapt evolutionarily to the strict beer conditions, and they can survive and spoil them. In particular, the most frequent harmful species against the quality of beers are Lactobacillus brevis and Pediococcus damnosus (Figure 3). The first is the most frequent, and it can give tastes and undesired aromas, as well as turbidity to the final product. P. damnosus has the advantage of growing at low temperatures, and it can also produce undesired aromas, such as diacetyl (Vriesekoop et al 2012). Some Pediococcus and Lactobacillus may adhere to yeast, inducing them to sediment, which delays fermentation (Suzuki 2011).

Fig 3 brevis i pedio.png

Figure 3. Lactobacillus brevis (left) and Pediococcus damnosus (right) at the electronic scanning microscope.

 

Some Pediococcus may also be responsible for the appearance of biological amines in some beers, at risk for the consumer. Amines in a certain concentration are toxic, they may be present in some fermented foods such as cheese, cold meat and alcoholic beverages such as wines and beers, and are produced by decarboxylation of amino acids by LAB. The level of tyramine and other amines has been used as a measure of quality in some Belgian beers made with LAB (Loret et al 2005).

Apart from these LAB, other bacteria related to problems of beer contamination are acetic acid bacteria such as Acetobacter, typically associated with oxygen intake in packaging or distribution. Other harmful bacteria are some enterobacteria, such as Shimwellia pseudoproteus or Citrobacter freundii, which proliferate in the early stages of fermentation, and produce butanediol, acetaldehyde and other unwanted aromatic compounds (Vriesekoop et al 2012). Other harmful bacteria for beer, especially when bottled, are Pectinatus and Megasphaera, which are strict anaerobes, of the clostridial family, and can produce hydrogen sulphide and short chain fatty acids, all of them unpleasant (Suzuki 2011 ).

 

The “good” lactic acid bacteria of beer

LAB are well known for being some of the microbes that most benefits contribute to the food production, on the one hand as an economic means of preserving food, and on the other hand to improve their quality and organoleptic characteristics. That’s why they are the main agents of fermented foods, along with yeasts. We have seen some of the LAB’s food benefits in other posts in this blog: prehistoric cheeses, or breast milk microbiota, and even wine bacteria.

Therefore, LAB also have a good role in the production of beers: in particular, as we will see below, in the production of acidified malt, and in some peculiar styles of beer such as the Belgian Lambic and the Berliner Weissbier.

As you know, malt is the raw material for making beer. The cereal is subjected to the malting process, where cereal grains, mainly barley, are germinated, the enzymes hydrolyse the starch into sugars, and all of this is then heated obtaining the must, the substrate solution which will be fermented by the yeasts ferment, producing ethanol and carbon dioxide.

The acidification of the malt, that is, with a lower pH, has the advantages of activating many important enzymes in malting, giving a lower viscosity to the malt and therefore to the final beer. Although adding mineral acids or commercial lactic acid can achieve acidification, it is often recommended or legislated a biological acidification, which is achieved by adding LAB. The use of LAB starter cultures is a relatively new process and in addition to the commented benefits on the quality of the malt, it has been shown to also inhibit unwanted molds that are a real problem in malting and that can give mycotoxins. The compounds produced by LAB that can inhibit the fungi are the same lactic acid and the consequent pH drop, bacteriocins, hydrogen peroxide, and other compounds not well known as perhaps some peptides (Lowe & Arendt 2004).

The most commonly LAB strains used to acidify malt are Lactobacillus amylolyticus previously isolated from the same malt. These strains are moderately thermophile, resistant to compounds derived from humulone, and they have the advantage of being amylolytic in addition to producing lactic acid, which lowers the pH (Vriersekoop et al 2012).

Beers with LAB participating in the fermentation, such as Lambic and Berliner Weissbier styles, belong to the type of spontaneous fermentation beers. The other types of controlled fermentation beers are the best-known Ale and Lager, both inoculated with specific yeasts. Ale beers are those of high fermentation, where Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast used tends to remain on the surface and the fermentation temperature is above 15-20ºC. Lager ones are those of low fermentation, originally from Bavaria, where yeast S. pastorianus (S. carlsbergensis) tends to settle at the bottom of the fermenter and the temperature is between 7 and 13ºC.

 

Belgian Lambic beer

Traditional Belgian beers (in Dutch lambiek or lambik) are known for their sensorial characteristics due to LAB activity. They are traditional in Brussels itself and in the neighbouring region of Pajottenland, in the Zenne river valley, in the Flemish Brabant on the SW of the Belgian capital. One of the villages in this valley is Lembeek, which could be the origin of the name of this beer.

These beers of spontaneous fermentation represent the oldest style of making beer in the developed world, for some centuries. For a few years now (since around 2008), similar beers are made in the USA, called “American coolship ales” (Ray 2014).

Lambic beer is made with barley malt and a minimum of 30% of non-malted wheat. The cones of a special hops, completely dried and aged for 3 years, are added to the must. They are added not for their aroma or bitterness, but rather as antimicrobial, to prevent above all, the growth of gram-positive pathogenic bacteria in the fermentation broth.

Also to avoid these contaminants and to promote the microbiota typical of the Lambic fermentation, these beers are brewed only between October and May, since in summer there are too many harmful microorganisms in the air that could spoil the beer, and it is necessary to lower the temperature after boiling. Boiling of the must is done intensively, with an evaporation of 30%.

After boiling, the broth is left in open deposits, and in this way the microorganisms of the air present in the fermentation rooms of the brewery (usually at the top of the building) are acquired, and of the outside air, since the tradition says that the windows must be left open. It is assumed that the captured microbes are specific to the Zenne Valley. These open deposits are the koelschip in Dutch (coolship in English), like swimming pools (Figure 4). Being well open, with a lot of surface (about 6 x 6 m) and shallow depth (about 50 cm), they favour the collection of microbes from the room and from the outside. Another purpose of this form is the fastest cooling of boiled broth to start fermentation. They can be made of wood, copper, or stainless steel more recently.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0641.JPG

Figure 4. Koelschip (in Dutch) or coolship in English, the open deposits, as swimming-pools, where the Lambic beer process begins (Brasserie Cantillon, Brussels).

 

The “inoculated” broth in this spontaneous way is left only one night in the coolship, and on the following day this must is pumped into fermentation tanks where there will stay a year, during which the sugar content will go down, up to about 30 g/L. Then it is transferred to oak barrels, previously used for sherry or port, and there it can be left for another two years, at temperatures of 15-25ºC. Some barrels are the same used since 100 years ago. The final product is a cloudy beer, with a pale yellow, very little CO2, dry, acidic, with about 6-8º of ethanol. It reminds a bit like the sherry and especially the cider, and with a slightly bitter taste (Jackson 1999).

In this long process of fermentation, up to 3 years, of course there is a diversity in the composition of the microbial population. In a first phase there is a certain predominance of Kloeckera yeasts and especially enterobacteria during the first month. After 2 months, Pediococcus damnosus and Saccharomyces spp. predominate, and alcoholic fermentation begins. After 6 months of fermentation the predominant yeast is Dekkera bruxellensis (Spitaels et al 2014), or what is the same, Brettanomyces (Kumara & Verachtert 1991), of which Dekkera is the sexual form.

Fig 5 Spitaels fig3

Figure 5. Species of isolates in MRS and VRBG agar media, for lactic acid bacteria and enterobacteria respectively, during the process of making a Lambic beer. The number of isolates is given between brackets (Spitaels et al 2014).

 

We see (Figure 5) as in particular after 2 months the predominant bacterium is the LAB P. damnosus. It was appointed in the first studies as “P. cerevisiae“, but this name was finally not admitted because it included other species. The count of these in MRS is 104UFC per mL until the end of fermentation. Acidification seems to be rapidly taking place in the transition from the first stage to that of maturation, coinciding with the growth of P. damnosus, which produces lactic acid, although Dekkera/Brettanomyces and acetic acid bacteria also contribute to the acidification (Spitaels et to 2014).

In other trials with the American coolship ales (ACA) of Lambic style, Lactobacillus spp. have also been found, and in a metagenomic study (Bukolich et al 2012) of these ACA, DNA of several Lactobacillales has been detected. At the end of the process, a predominance of Pediococcus (Figure 6, panel C) was also observed. In the same figure in panel A we observe how the predominant unicellular fungus is also Dekkera/Brettanomyces.

Fig 6 Bukolich fig 2

Figure 6. TRFLP analysis (polymorphisms of lengths of PCR-amplified terminal restriction fragments) of total DNA extracted from the fermentation samples of ACA beers (similar to Lambic) during 3 years, using primers for: ITS1/ITS4 of 26S rDNA for yeasts (panel A), 16S rDNA for bacteria (panel B), and specific ones for LAB (panel C). Samples marked with * did not give amplification (Bukolich et al 2012).

 

Lambic derived beers: Gueuze, Faro, fruity and others

The basic Lambic, which is difficult to purchase, is only found in a few Brussels cafes and the production area. In fact, Lambic is the basis for elaborating the others, much more common to consume:

The Faro is a Lambic sweetened with brown sugar and sometimes with spices.

The fruity Lambic are those that have been added whole fruits or fruit syrup. They can be with bitter cherry (kriek), which are the most traditional, or with raspberry, peach, grapes, strawberry, and sometimes also apple or pineapple or apricot or other.

And finally, the Gueuze, which are sparkling and easy to find. They are made by mixing young Lambics (from 6 months to 1 year) with other more mature ones (2-3 years) in thick glass bottles similar to those of champagne or cava and left for a second fermentation with the remaining sugars from the young Lambic. This would have been begun by a mayor of Lembeek in 1870 that owned a brewery and applied the fermentation techniques in the bottle that had been successful in the Champagne some years before (Cervesa en català 2012). The word Gueuze can have the same etymological origin as gist(yeast in Flemish) and it could also refer to the fact that it produces bubbles of CO2, that is, gas (Jackson 1999). However, another historical version would be that this beer was called “Lambic de chez le gueux” (Welsh from poor people) because the mentioned mayor of Lembeek had similar socialist ideas to those of the “Parti des Gueus” founded by the Calvinists from Flanders in the 16th century to fight against the Spanish empire. And since beer is feminine in French, the gueuxfeminine is gueuze, here it is.

In this refermentation in the bottle the populations of Dekkera/Brettanomycesand LAB are maintained, although other unicellular fungi such as CandidaHansenula, Pichia or Cryptococcus (Verachtert & Debourg 1999) appear in limited numbers.

Fig 7 lambics3 swanbournecellars

Figure 7. Several beer Gueuze and fruity Lambic, mostly Belgian (from www.swanbournecellars.com.au/).

 

The Berliner Weissbier (Figure 8) is another beer relatively similar to Lambic ones. It is also brewed with an important part of wheat must, it is cloudy, acidic and with 3% ethanol. It is traditional in Berlin and the north of Germany, made from the s. XVI and the most popular alcoholic beverage in Berlin until the end of the s. XIX. It was called the “northern champagne” by the Napoleon’s soldiers. Spontaneous fermentation of must involves a mixture of Dekkera/Brettanomyces, Saccharomycesand hetero-fermentative Lactobacillus.

Fig 8 Berliner Weissbier boozedancing_Fotor

Figure 8. Berliner Weisse beer (from G-LO, @boozedancing wordpress).

 

Beers similar to Lambic brewed in Spain

In the same way that the commented American Coolship Ales, Lambic style beers are also made in many other countries and, in the case of Spain, coinciding with the boom of artisanal beers, they are also elaborated, especially the fruity Lambic ones. According to the Birrapedia website, 6 of these are currently being processed, all of which are cherries. Two of them are made in Lleida, one in Barcelona, one in Alicante, one in the Jerte valley, and another in Asturias.

 

Resistance of lactic acid bacteria from beer to hop compounds

Lactobacillus and Pediococcus, both bad and good we have seen, and other contaminating bacteria of beers, have the ability to withstand hop compounds, which, as we have seen, are natural microbiocides. This resistance can be due to various defence systems, both active and passive (Sakamoto & Konings 2003). The active systems include efflux pumps, such as HorA and HorC, which carry the iso-alpha-acids (Figure 1) out the cell. HorA does it with ATP consumption, and HorC using the proton driving force (Figure 9). The corresponding genes horA and horC were originally found in L. brevis, but later they were also found in L. lindneri, L. paracollinoides and in the best known P. damnosus(Suzuki et al., 2006).

Curiously, HorA shows a resemblance of 54% to OmrA, a membrane transporter of Oenococcus oeni, related to the tolerance of this bacterium from wine to ethanol and other stressors (Bourdineaud et al 2004) (See some more about O. oeni in my post on the bacteria of the vine and the wine). Therefore, it is probable that HorA also has functions of exclusion of other compounds aside from those of the hops. It has been seen that these horAand horC resistance genes and their flanking regions are well preserved and have sequences almost identical to the different species that have them. Therefore, it is very likely that some have been acquired from others by means of horizontal gene transfer, by plasmids or transposons, as is usual in many other bacteria (Suzuki 2011).

Fig 9 brevis Suzuki fig 8

Figure 9. Mechanisms of resistance to hop compounds in Lactobacillus brevis (Suzuki 2011).

 

As we see in Figure 9, protons are pumped out by an ATPase, and the consumption of ATPs is compensated by forming it thanks to the consumption of substrates such as citrate, malate, pyruvate or arginine. Another mechanism of resistance, passive in this case, is the modification of the composition of membrane fatty acids, with the addition of more saturated ones, such as C16:0, which reduces the membrane fluidity and makes it difficult the entrance of the hop compounds. This also reminds us of the changes in membrane of O. oeni related to the resistance to ethanol (Margalef-Català et al 2016). The cell wall also changes its composition in the presence of the hop alpha-iso-acids, increasing the amount of high molecular weight lipoteichoic acid, which would also be a barrier. We also see (Figure 9) how hop compounds can lower the intracellular levels of Mn2+, and then a greater synthesis of Mn-dependent proteins is observed, and a greater capture of Mn2+ from outside. Finally, cells of L. brevis reduce their size when they are in beer (Figure 10), probably in order to decrease the extracellular surface, thus minimizing the effect of external toxic compounds (Suzuki 2011).

Fig 10 brevis mida Suzuki

Figure 10. Effects of beer adaptation (left) in the size of Lactobacillus brevis cells compared to well grown cells in rich media MRS (right). The bars are 5 mm (Suzuki 2011).

 

All these mechanisms have been studied in L. brevis strains harmful to beer, but it is assumed that the resistance of beneficial bacteria from Lambic and others would be due to the same mechanisms, since they are of the same bacterial species.

As a conclusion to all said, we see that LAB have outstanding roles as beneficial in various aspects of brewery and malting, despite their most known role of harmful in the processing of the most common beers.

 

Bibliography

Birrapedia (seen 18 august 2018) Cervezas de tipo Fruit Lambic elaboradas en España. https://birrapedia.com/cervezas/del-tipo-fruit-lambic-elaboradas-en-espana

Bokulich NA et al (2012) Brewhouse resident microbiota are responsible for multi-stage fermentation of American Coolship Ale. PLoS One, 7, e35507

Bourdineaud J et al (2004) A bacterial gene homologous to ABC transporters protect Oenococcus oeni from ethanol and other stress factors in wine. Int J Food Microbiol 92, 1-14.

Cervesa en català (2012) Fitxes de degustació – Timmermans Gueuze Tradition http://cervesaencatala.blogspot.com.es/2012/06/fitxes-de-degustacio-timmermans-gueuze.html

Jackson, Michael (1999) Belgium’s great beers. Beer Hunter Online, July 30, 1999

Kumara HMCS & Verachtert H (1991) Identification of Lambic super attenuating micro-organisms by the use of selective antibiotics. J Inst Brew 97, 181-185

Loret S et al (2005) Levels of biogenic amines as a measure of the quality of the beer fermentation process: data from Belgian samples. Food Chem 89, 519-525

Lowe DP & Arendt EK (2004) The use and effects of lactic acid bacteria in malting and brewing with their relationships to antifungal activity, mycotoxins and gushing: a review. J Inst Brew 110, 163-180

Margalef-Català et al (2016) Protective role of glutathione addition against wine-related stress in Oenococcus oeni. Food Res Int 90, 8-15

Menz G et al (2009) Pathogens in beer, in Beer in Health and Disease Prevention, (Preedy, V. R. Ed.), 403–413, Academic Press, Amsterdam

Ray AL (2014) Coolships rising: the next frontier of sour beers in the U.S.  First we feast 27 feb 2014

Sakamoto K & Konings WN (2003) Beer spoilage bacteria and hop resistance. Int J Food Microbiol 89, 105-124

Spitaels F et al (2014) The microbial diversity of traditional spontaneously fermented lambic beer. PLOS One 9, 4, e95384

Suzuki K et al (2006) A review of hop resistance in beer spoilage lactic acid bacteria. J Inst Brew 112, 173-191

Suzuki K (2011) 125th Anniversary Review: microbiological instability of beer caused by spoilage bacteria. J Inst Brew 117, 131-155

The Beer Wench (2008) My obsession with wild beers. Nov. 20, 2008 https://thecolumbuswench.wordpress.com/tag/lambic/

Verachtert H & Debourg A (1999) The production of gueuze and related refreshing acid beers. Cerevisia, 20, 37–41

Vriesekoop F et al (2012) 125th Anniversary review: Bacteria in brewing: the good, the bad and the ugly. J Inst Brew 118, 335-345

 

Bacillus as probiotics

12th August 2017

The probiotics

Probiotics are living microorganisms that, when ingested in adequate amounts, can have a positive effect on the health of guests (FAO / WHO 2006; World Gastroenterology Organization 2011, Fontana et al., 2013). Guests can be humans but also other animals. Lactic acid bacteria, especially the genus Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, both considered as GRAS (Generally recognized as safe), are the microbes most commonly used as probiotics, but other bacteria and some yeasts can also be useful. Apart from being able to be administered as medications, probiotics are commonly consumed for millennia as part of fermented foods, such as yoghurt and other dairy products (see my article “European cheese from 7400 years ago..” “December 26th, 2012). As medications, probiotics are generally sold without prescription, over-the-counter (OTC) in pharmacies.

I have already commented on the other posts of this blog the relevance of probiotics (“A new probiotic modulates microbiota against hepatocellular carcinoma” August 24th, 2016), as well as the microbiota that coexists with our body (“Bacteria in the gut controlling what we eat” October 12th, 2014; “The good bacteria of breast milk” February 3rd, 2013) and other animals (“Human skin microbiota … and our dog” December 25th, 2015; “The herbivore giant panda …. and its carnivore microbiota” September 30th, 2015).

Besides lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria, other microorganisms that are also used to a certain extent as probiotics are the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, some strains of Escherichia coli, and some Bacillus, as we will see. Some clostridia are also used, related to what I commented in a previous post of this blog by March 21st, 2015 (“We have good clostridia in the gut ...”).

 

The Bacillus

In fact, Bacillus and clostridia have in common the ability to form endospores. And both groups are gram-positive bacteria, within the taxonomic phylum Firmicutes (Figure 1), which also includes lactic acid bacteria. However, bacilli (Bacillus and similar ones, but also Staphylococcus and Listeria) are more evolutionarily closer to lactobacillalles (lactic acid bacteria) than to clostridia ones. The main physiological difference between Clostridium and Bacillus is that the first are strict anaerobes while Bacillus are aerobic or facultative anaerobic.

Fig 1 tree gram+ eng

Figure 1. Phylogenetic tree diagram of Gram-positive bacteria (Firmicutes and Actinobacteria). Own elaboration.

 

Bacterial endospores (Figure 2) are the most resistant biological structures, as they survive extreme harsh environments, such as UV and gamma radiation, dryness, lysozyme, high temperatures (they are the reference for thermal sterilization calculations), lack of nutrients and chemical disinfectants. They are found in the soil and in the water, where they can survive for very long periods of time.

Fig 2 bacillus Simon Cutting

Figure 2. Endospores (white parts) of Bacillus subtilis in formation (Image of Simon Cutting).

 

Bacillus in fermented foods, especially Asian

Several Bacillus are classically involved in food fermentation processes, especially due to their protease production capacity. During fermentation, this contributes to nutritional enrichment with amino acids resulting from enzymatic proteolysis.

Some of these foods are fermented rice flour noodles, typical of Thailand and Burma (nowadays officially Myanmar). It has been seen that a variety of microorganisms (lactic acid bacteria, yeasts and other fungi) are involved in this fermentation, but also aerobic bacteria such as B. subtilis. It has been found that their proteolytic activity digests and eliminates protein rice substrates that are allergenic, such as azocasein, and therefore they have a beneficial activity for the health of consumers (Phromraksa et al. 2009).

However, the best-known fermented foods with Bacillus are the alkaline fermented soybeans. As you know, soy (Glycine max) or soya beans are one of the most historically consumed nourishing vegetables, especially in Asian countries. From they are obtained “soy milk”, soybean meal, soybean oil, soybean concentrate, soy yogurt, tofu (soaked milk), and fermented products such as soy sauce, tempeh, miso and other ones. Most of them are made with the mushroom Rhizopus, whose growth is favoured by acidification or by direct inoculation of this fungus. On the other hand, if soy beans are left to ferment only with water, the predominant natural microbes fermenting soy are Bacillus, and in this way, among other things, the Korean “chongkukjang” is obtained, “Kinema” in India, the “thua nao” in northern Taiwan, the Chinese “douchi”, the “chine pepoke” from Burma, and the best known, the Japanese “natto” (Figure 3). Spontaneous fermentation with Bacillus gives ammonium as a by-product, and therefore is alkaline, which gives a smell not very good to many of these products. Nevertheless, natto is made with a selected strain of B. subtilis that gives a smoother and more pleasant smell (Chukeatirote 2015).

These foods are good from the nutritional point of view as they contain proteins, fibre, vitamins, and they are of vegetable or microbial origin. In addition, the advertising of the commercial natto emphasizes, besides being handmade and sold fresh (not frozen), its probiotic qualities, saying that B. subtilis (Figure 4) promotes health in gastrointestinal, immunologic, cardiovascular and osseous systems (www.nyrture.com). They say the taste and texture of natto are exquisite. It is eaten with rice or other ingredients and sauces, and also in the maki sushi. We must try it !

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Figure 3. “Natto”, soybeans fermented with B. subtilis, in a typical Japanese breakfast with rice (Pinterest.com).

Fig 4 Bs nyrture-com micrograf electro colorejada

Figure 4. Coloured electronic micrograph of Bacillus subtilis (Nyrture.com).

 

Bacillus as probiotics

The endospores are the main advantage of Bacillus being used as probiotics, thanks to their thermal stability and to survive in the gastric conditions (Cutting 2011). Although Clostridium has also this advantage, its strict anaerobic condition makes its manipulation more complex, and moreover, for the “bad reputation” of this genus due to some well-known toxic species.

Unlike other probiotics such as Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium, Bacillus endospores can be stored indefinitely without water. The commercial products are administered in doses of 10^9 spores per gram or per ml.

There are more and more commercial products of probiotics containing Bacillus, both for human consumption (Table 1) and for veterinary use (Table 2). In addition, there are also five specific products for aquaculture with several Bacillus, and also shrimp farms are often using products of human consumption (Cutting 2011).

For use in aquaculture, probiotic products of mixtures of Bacillus (B. thuringiensis, B. megaterium, B. polymixa, B. licheniformis and B. subtilis) have been obtained by isolating them from the bowel of the prawn Penaeus monodon infected with vibriosis. They have been selected based on nutrient biodegradation and the inhibitory capacity against the pathogen Vibrio harveyi (Vaseeharan & Ramasamy 2003). They are prepared freeze-dried or microencapsulated in sodium alginate, and it has been shown to significantly improve the growth and survival of shrimp (Nimrat et al., 2012).

As we see for human consumption products, almost half of the brands (10 of 25) are made in Vietnam. The use of probiotic Bacillus in this country is more developed than in any other, but the reasons are not clear. Curiously, as in other countries in Southeast Asia, there is no concept of dietary supplements and probiotics such as Bacillus are only sold as medications approved by the Ministry of Health. They are prescribed for rotavirus infection (childhood diarrhoea) or immune stimulation against poisoning, or are very commonly used as a therapy against enteric infections. However, it is not clear that clinical trials have been carried out, and they are easy-to-buy products (Cutting 2011).

 

Table 1. Commercial products of probiotics with Bacillus, for human consumption (modified from Cutting 2011).

Product Country where it is made Species of Bacillus
Bactisubtil ® France B. cereus
Bibactyl ® Vietnam B. subtilis
Bidisubtilis ® Vietnam B. cereus
Bio-Acimin ® Vietnam B. cereus and 2 other
Biobaby ® Vietnam B. subtilis and 2 other
Bio-Kult ® United Kingdom B. subtilis and 13 other
Biosporin ® Ukraine B. subtilis + B. licheniformis
Biosubtyl ® Vietnam B. cereus
Biosubtyl DL ® Vietnam B. subtilis and 1 other
Biosubtyl I and II ® Vietnam B. pumilus
Biovicerin ® Brazil B. cereus
Bispan ® South Korea B. polyfermenticus
Domuvar ® Italy B. clausii
Enterogermina ® Italy B. clausii
Flora-Balance ® United States B. laterosporus *
Ildong Biovita ® Vietnam B. subtilis and 2 other
Lactipan Plus ® Italy B. subtilis *
Lactospore ® United States B. coagulans *
Medilac-Vita ® China B. subtilis
Nature’s First Food ® United States 42 strains, including 4 B.
Neolactoflorene ® Italy B. coagulans * and 2 other
Pastylbio ® Vietnam B. subtilis
Primal Defense ® United States B. subtilis
Subtyl ® Vietnam B. cereus
Sustenex ® United States B. coagulans

* Some labelled as Lactobacillus or other bacteria are really Bacillus

 

Table 2. Commercial products of probiotics with Bacillus, for veterinary use (modified from Cutting 2011).

Product Animal Country where it is made Species of Bacillus
AlCare ® Swine Australia B. licheniformis
BioGrow ® Poultry, calves and swine United Kingdom B. licheniformis and B. subtilis
BioPlus 2B ® Piglets, chickens, turkeys Denmark B. licheniformis and B. subtilis
Esporafeed Plus ® Swine Spain B. cereus
Lactopure ® Poultry, calves and swine India B. coagulans *
Neoferm BS 10 ® Poultry, calves and swine France B. clausii
Toyocerin ® Poultry, calves, rabbits and swine Japan B. cereus

 

The Bacillus species that we see in these Tables are those that really are found, once the identification is made, since many of these products are poorly labelled as Bacillus subtilis or even as Lactobacillus (Green et al. 1999; Hoa et al. 2000). These labelling errors can be troubling for the consumer, and especially for security issues, since some of the strains found are Bacillus cereus, which has been shown to be related with gastrointestinal infections, since some of them produce enterotoxins (Granum & Lund 1997; Hong et al. 2005)

The probiotic Bacillus have been isolated from various origins. For example, some B. subtilis have been isolated from the aforementioned Korean chongkukjang, which have good characteristics of resistance to the gastrointestinal tract (GI) conditions and they have antimicrobial activity against Listeria, Staphylococcus, Escherichia and even against B. cereus (Lee et al. 2017).

One of the more known probiotics pharmaceuticals is Enterogermina ® (Figure 5), with B. subtilis spores, which is recommended for the treatment of intestinal disorders associated with microbial alterations (Mazza 1994).

Figuresv1 copy.ppt

Figure 5. Enterogermina ® with spores of Bacillus subtilis (Cutting 2011)

 

Bacillus in the gastrointestinal tract: can they survive there ?

It has been discussed whether administered spores can germinate in the GI tract. Working with mice, Casula & Cutting (2002) have used modified B. subtilis, with a chimeric gene ftsH-lacZ, which is expressed only in vegetative cells, which can be detected by RT-PCR up to only 100 bacteria. In this way they have seen that the spores germinate in significant numbers in the jejunum and in the ileum. That is, spores could colonize the small intestine, albeit temporarily.

Similarly, Duc et al. (2004) have concluded that B. subtilis spores can germinate in the gut because after the oral treatment of mice, in the faeces are excreted more spores that the swallowed ones, a sign that they have been able to proliferate. They have also detected, through RT-PCR, mRNA of vegetative bacilli after spore administration, and in addition, it has been observed that the mouse generates an IgG response against bacterial vegetative cells. That is, spores would not be only temporary stagers, but they would germinate into vegetative cells, which would have an active interaction with the host cells or the microbiota, increasing the probiotic effect.

With all this, perhaps it would be necessary to consider many Bacillus as not allochthonous of the GI tract, but as bacteria with a bimodal growth and sporulation life cycle, both in the environment and in the GI tract of many animals (Hong et al. 2005).

Regarding the normal presence of Bacillus in the intestine, when the different microorganisms inhabiting the human GI tract are studied for metagenomic DNA analysis of the microbiota, the genus Bacillus does not appear (Xiao et al., 2015). As we can see (Figure 6), the most common are Bacteroides and Clostridium, followed by various enterobacteria and others, including bifidobacteria.

Fig 6 Xiao nbt.3353-F2

Figure 6. The 20 bacterial genera more abundant in the mice (left) and human (right) GI tract (Xiao et al. 2015).

 

In spite of this, several species of Bacillus have been isolated from the GI tract of chickens, treating faecal samples with heat and ethanol to select only the spores, followed by aerobic incubation (Barbosa et al. 2005). More specifically, the presence of B. subtilis in the human microbiota has been confirmed by selective isolation from biopsies of ileum and also from faecal samples (Hong et al. 2009). These strains of B. subtilis exhibited great diversity and had the ability to form biofilms, to sporulate in anaerobiosis and to secrete antimicrobials, thereby confirming the adaptation of these bacteria to the intestine. In this way, these bacteria can be considered intestinal commensals, and not only soil bacteria.

 

Security of Bacillus as probiotics

The oral consumption of important amounts of viable microorganisms that are not very usual in the GI treatment raises additional doubts about safety. Even more in the use of species that do not have a history of safe use in foods, as is the case of sporulated bacteria. Even normal bowel residents may sometimes act as opportunistic pathogens (Sanders et al. 2003).

With the exception of B. anthracis and B. cereus, the various species of Bacillus are generally not considered pathogenic. Of course, Bacillus spores are commonly consumed inadvertently with foods and in some fermented ones. Although Bacillus are recognized as GRAS for the production of enzymes, so far the FDA has not guaranteed the status of GRAS for any sporulated bacteria with application as a probiotic, neither Bacillus nor Clostridium. While Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium have been the subject of numerous and rigorous tests of chronic and acute non-toxicity, and a lot of experts have reviewed data and have concluded that they are safe as probiotics, there is no toxicity data published on Bacillus in relation to their use as probiotics. When reviewing articles on Medline with the term “probiotic” and limited to clinical studies, 123 references appear, but Bacillus does not appear in any of them (Sanders et al. 2003).

Instead, there are some clinical studies where Bacillus strains have been detected as toxigenic. All this explains that some probiotic Bacillus producers refer to them with the misleading name of Lactobacillus sporogenes, a non-existent species, as can be seen from NCBI (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/taxonomy/?term = Lactobacillus + sporogenes).

Finally, we should remember the joint report on probiotics of FAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization) and WHO (World Health Organization) (FAO / WHO 2006), which suggests a set of Guidelines for a product to be used as a probiotic, alone or in the form of a new food supplement. These recommendations are:

  1. The microorganism should be well characterized at the species level, using phenotypic and genotypic methods (e.g. 16S rRNA).
  2. The strain in question should be deposited in an internationally recognized culture collection.
  3. To evaluate the strain in vitro to determine the absence of virulence factors: it should not be cytotoxic neither invades epithelial cells, and not produce enterotoxins or haemolysins or lecithinases.
  4. Determination of its antimicrobial activity, and the resistance profile, including the absence of resistance genes and the inability to transfer resistance factors.
  5. Preclinical evaluation of its safety in animal models.
  6. Confirmation in animals demonstrating its effectiveness.
  7. Human evaluation (Phase I) of its safety.
  8. Human evaluation (Phase II) of its effectiveness (if it does the expected effect) and efficiency (with minimal resources and minimum time).
  9. Correct labelling of the product, including genus and species, precise dosage and conservation conditions.

FAO WHO

Conclusions

The use of Bacillus as probiotics, especially in the form of dietary supplements, is increasing very rapidly. More and more scientific studies show their benefits, such as immune stimulation, antimicrobial activities and exclusive competition. Their main advantage is that they can be produced easily and that the final product, the spores, is very stable, which can easily be incorporated into daily food. In addition, there are studies that suggest that these bacteria may multiply in GI treatment and may be considered as temporary stagers (Cutting 2011).

On the other hand, it is necessary to ask for greater rigor in the selection and control of the Bacillus used, since some, if not well identified, could be cause of intestinal disorders. In any case, since the number of products sold as probiotics that contain the sporulated Bacillus is increasing a lot, one must not assume that all are safe and they must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis (Hong et al. 2005).

 

Bibliography

Barbosa TM, Serra CR, La Ragione RM, Woodward MJ, Henriques AO (2005) Screening for Bacillus isolates in the broiler gastrointestinal tract. Appl Environ Microbiol 71, 968-978.

Casula G, Cutting SM (2002) Bacillus probiotics: Spore germination in the gastrointestinal tract. Appl Environ Microbiol 68, 2344-2352.

Chukeatirote E (2015) Thua nao: Thai fermented soybean. J Ethnic Foods 2, 115-118.

Cutting SM (2011) Bacillus probiotics. Food Microbiol 28, 214-220.

Duc LH, Hong HA, Barbosa TM, Henriques AO, Cutting SM (2004) Characterization of Bacillus probiotics available for human use. Appl Environ Microbiol 70, 2161-2171.

FAO/WHO (2006) Probiotics in food. Health and nutritional properties and guidelines for evaluation. Fao Food and Nutrition Paper 85. Reports of Joint FAO/WHO expert consultations.

Fontana L, Bermudez-Brito M, Plaza-Diaz J, Muñoz-Quezada S, Gil A (2013) Sources, isolation, characterization and evaluation of probiotics. Brit J Nutrition 109, S35-S50.

Granum, P. E., T. Lund (1997) Bacillus cereus and its food poisoning toxins. FEMS Microbiol. Lett. 157:223–228.

Green, D. H., P. R. Wakeley, A. Page, A. Barnes, L. Baccigalupi, E. Ricca, S. M. Cutting (1999) Characterization of two Bacillus probiotics. Appl Environ Microbiol 65, 4288–4291.

Hoa, N. T., L. Baccigalupi, A. Huxham, A. Smertenko, P. H. Van, S. Ammendola, E. Ricca, A. S. Cutting (2000) Characterization of Bacillus species used for oral bacteriotherapy and bacterioprophylaxis of gastrointestinal disorders. Appl Environ Microbiol 66, 5241–5247.

Hong HA, Dic LH, Cutting SM (2005) The use of bacterial spore formers as probiotics. FEMS Microbiol Rev 29, 813-835.

Hong HA, Khaneja R, Tam NMK, Cazzato A, Tan S, Urdaci M, Brisson A, Gasbarrini A, Barnes I, Cutting SM (2009) Bacillus subtilis isolated from the human gastrointestinal tract. Res Microbiol 160, 134-143.

Lee S, Lee J, Jin YI, Jeong JC, Hyuk YH, Lee Y, Jeong Y, Kim M (2017) Probiotic characteristics of Bacillus strains isolated from Korean traditional soy sauce. LWT – Food Sci Technol 79, 518-524.

Mazza P (1994) The use of Bacillus subtilis as an antidiarrhoeal microorganism. Boll Chim. Farm. 133, 3-18.

Nimrat S, Suksawat S, Boonthai T, Vuthiphandchai V (2012) Potential Bacillus probiotics enhance bacterial numbers, water quality and growth during early development of white shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei). Veterinary Microbiol 159, 443-450.

Phromraksa P, Nagano H, Kanamaru Y, Izumi H, Yamada C, Khamboonruang C (2009) Characterization of Bacillus subtilis isolated from Asian fermented foods. Food Sci Technol Res 15, 659-666.

Sanders ME, Morelli L, Tompkins TA (2003) Sporeformers as human probiotics: Bacillus, Sporolactobacillus, and Brevibacillus. Compr Rev Food Sci Food Safety 2, 101-110

Vaseeharan, B., P. Ramasamy (2003) Control of pathogenic Vibrio spp. by Bacillus subtilis BT23, a possible probiotic treatment for black tiger shrimp Penaeus monodon. Lett Appl Microbiol 36, 83–87

World Gastroenterology Organisation Global Guidelines (2011) Probiotics and Prebiotics.

Xiao et al. (2015) A catalogue of the mouse gut metagenome. Nature Biotechnol 33, 1103-1108.

Fig 0 pinterest-com cool bacillus-subtilis-science-comics

 

A new probiotic modulates gut microbiota against hepatocellular carcinoma

24th August 2016

Over the last years the beneficial effects of the human intestinal microbiota on various health markers have been displayed, such as inflammation, immune response, metabolic function and weight. The importance of these symbiotic bacteria of ours has been proved. You can see these other posts related with our microbiota: “The good clostridia avoid us from allergies“, “Gut bacteria controlling what we eat” or “Good bacteria of breast milk

At the same time it has been seen that probiotics can be a good solution for many diseases with affected gut microbiota. Indeed, the beneficial role of probiotics to reduce gastrointestinal inflammation and prevent colorectal cancer has been proven.

However, recently it has been found that probiotics may have beneficial effects in other parts of the body beyond the gastrointestinal tract, particularly with immunomodulatory effects on an hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). In this way, researchers at the University of Hong Kong, along with other from University of Eastern Finland, have published a study (Li et al, PNAS, 2016), where they have seen reductions of 40% in weight and size of HCC liver tumours in mice which were administered with a new mixture of probiotics, “Prohep.”

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common type of liver cancer is the 2nd most deadly cancers, and it is quite abundant in areas with high rates of hepatitis. In addition, sorafenib, the drug most widely used to reduce the proliferation of tumour, is very expensive. The cost of this multikinase inhibitor is €3400 for 112 tablets of 200 mg, the recommended treatment of four pills a day for a month. Instead, any treatment with probiotics that would proved to be effective and could replace this drug would be much cheaper.

The new probiotics mix Prohep consists of several bacteria: Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG), Escherichia coli Nissle 1917 (ECN) and the whole inactivated by heat VSL#3 (1: 1: 1) containing Streptococcus thermophilus, Bifidobacterium breve, Bf. longum, Bf. infantis, Lb. acidophilus, Lb. plantarum, Lb. paracasei and Lb. delbrueckii.

In the mentioned work, Li et al. (2016) fed mice with Prohep for a week before inoculating them with a liver tumour, and observed a 40% reduction in tumour weight and size in comparison to control animals. As shown in Figure 1, the effect was significant at 35 days, and also for those who were given the Prohep the same day of tumour inoculation. Obviously, the effect of tumour reduction was much more evident when the antitumour compound Cisplatin was administered.

These researchers saw that tumour reduction was due to the inhibition of angiogenesis. This is the process that generates new blood vessels from existing ones, something essential for tumour growth. In relation to the tumour reduction, high levels of GLUT-1 + hypoxic were found. That meant that there was hypoxia caused by the lower blood flow to the tumour, since this was 54% lower in comparison to controls.

 

Fig 1 Li-Fig1B tumor size - days tumor

Figure 1. Change in tumour size. ProPre: administration of Prohep one week before tumour inoculation; ProTreat: administration of Prohep the same day of tumour inoculation; Cisplatin: administration of this antitumoral. (Fig 1B from Li et al, 2016).

 

These authors also determined that there was a smaller amount of pro-inflammatory angiogenic factor IL-17 and of Th17 cells of the immune system, cells also associated with cancer. The lower inflammation and angiogenesis could limit the tumour growth.

Moreover, these researchers established that the beneficial effects of probiotics administration were associated with the abundance of beneficial bacteria in the mice gut microbiota, analysed by metagenomics. So, probiotics modulate microbiota, favouring some gut bacteria, which produce anti-inflammatory metabolites such as cytokine IL-10 and which suppress the Th17 cell differentiation.

 

Fig 2 gut microbiota Eye of Science

Figure 2. Bacteria of the human intestinal microbiota seen by scanning electron microscope (SEM) (coloured image of Eye of Science / Science Source)

 

Some of the bacteria identified by metagenomics in the microbiota of mice that were administered with Prohep were Prevotella and Oscillibacter. The first is a bacteroidal, gram-negative bacterium, which is abundant in the microbiota of rural African child with diets rich in carbohydrates. Oscillibacter is a gram-positive clostridial, known in humans as a producer of the neurotransmitter GABA. Both are an example of the importance of some clostridial and bacteroidals in the gut microbiota. In fact, they are majority there, and although they are not used as probiotics, are found increasingly more positive functions, such as avoiding allergies (see “The good clostridia avoid us from allergies“).

It is known that these bacteria produce anti-inflammatory metabolites and therefore they would be the main involved in regulating the activity of immune cells that cause tumour growth. The observed reduction of tumour in these experiments with mice would be the result of combined effect of these administered probiotic bacteria together with the microbiota itself favoured by them. We see a potential outline of these actions in Figure 3.

Fig 3 Sung fig 2

Figure 3. Simplified diagram of the possible mechanisms of gut bacteria influencing on the polarization of Th17 cells in the lamina propria of the intestinal mucosa. The microbiota bacteria activate dendritic cells, which secrete cytokines (IL-22, IL-23, IL-27). The bacteria can promote Th17 immunity inducing IL-23, which can be involved by means of TLR ligands signal or extracellular ATP or serum amyloid A (SAA). Meanwhile, some probiotic strains could inhibit the development of Th17 by means of the production of IL-12 and IL-27, in addition to promoting the growth and colonization of the bacteria that induce Th17 (Sung et al 2012, Fig. 2).

 

Although we know that the cancer progression is a very complex process and that in the tumour microenvironments there is an infiltration of many different types of immune system cells, such as T cells, neutrophils, killer cells, macrophages etc, the Th17 helper cell subpopulation appears to be prevailing in the tumour progression, and therefore these effects of probiotics and microbiota open good prospects.

It is still early to say whether these findings will contribute to the treatment of human liver cancer, and therefore research in humans is needed, in order to see if these probiotics could be used as such or in tandem with some drug, depending on the tumour stage and size. In any case, all this opens a new range of possibilities for research of the molecular mechanisms of the beneficial effects of probiotics beyond the intestinal tract.

 

Bibliography

El-Nezami H (2016 april 27) HKU develops novel probiotic mixture “Prohep” that may offer potential therapeutic effects on liver cancer. The University of Hong Kong (HKU) 27 Apr 2016

El-Nezamy H, Lee PY, Huang J, Sung YJ (2015) Method and compositions for treating cancer using probiotics. Patent WO 2015021936 A1

Li J, Sung CYJ, Lee N, Ni Y, Pihlajamäki J, Panagiotou G, El-Nezami H (2016) Probiotics modulated gut microbiota suppresses hepatocellular carcinoma growth in mice. PNAS E1306-E1315

Oelschlaeger TA (2010) Mechanisms of probiotic actions – A review. Int J Med Microbiol 300, 57-62

Packham C (2016) Probiotics dramatically modulate liver cancer growth in mice. Medical Press, Med Research 23 Feb 2016

Silgailis M (2016) Treating some cancers with probiotics in the future ? Probiotic Prohep. Lacto Bacto: Health, Microbes and More 23 Feb 2016

Sung CYJ, Lee NP, El-Nezami H (2012) Regulation of T helper by bacteria: an approach for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma. Int J Hepatology ID439024, doi:10.1155/2012/439024

UEF News and Events (2016) A novel probiotic mixture may offer potential therapeutic effects on hepatocellular carcinoma. University of Eastern Finland 1 Mar 2016

 

We have good clostridia in the gut and some of them prevent allergies

21st March 2015

Clostridia: who are they ?

The clostridia or Clostridiales, with Clostridium and other related genera, are Gram-positive sporulating bacteria. They are obligate anaerobes, and belong to the taxonomic phylum Firmicutes. This phylum includes clostridia, the aerobic sporulating Bacillales (Bacillus, Listeria, Staphylococcus and others) and also the anaerobic aero-tolerant Lactobacillales (id est, lactic acid bacteria: Lactobacillus, Leuconostoc, Oenococcus, Pediococcus, Lactococcus, Streptococcus, etc.). All Firmicutes have regular shapes of rod or coccus, and they are the evolutionary branch of gram-positive bacteria with low G + C content in their DNA. The other branch of evolutionary bacteria are gram-positive Actinobacteria, of high G + C and irregular shapes, which include Streptomyces, Corynebacterium, Propionibacterium, and Bifidobacterium, among others.

 

flora_cover

 

Being anaerobes, the clostridia have a fermentative metabolism of both carbohydrates and amino acids, being primarily responsible for the anaerobic decomposition of proteins, known as putrefaction. They can live in many different habitats, but especially in soil and on decaying plant and animal material. As we will see below, they are also part of the human intestinal microbiota and of other vertebrates.

The best known clostridia are the bad ones (Figure 1): a) C. botulinum, which produces botulin, the botulism toxin, although nowadays has medical and cosmetic applications (Botox); b) C. perfringens, the agent of gangrene; c) C. tetani, which causes tetanus; and d) C. difficile, which is the cause of hospital diarrhea and some postantibiotics colitis.

 

clostridium_bacteria

Figure 1. The four more pathogen species of Clostridium. Image from http://www.tabletsmanual.com/wiki/read/botulism

 

Clostridia in gut microbiota

As I mentioned in a previous post (Bacteria in the gut …..) of this blog, we have a complex ecosystem in our gastrointestinal tract, and diverse depending on each person and age, with a total of 1014 microorganisms. Most of these are bacteria, besides some archaea methanogens (0.1%) and some eukaryotic (yeasts and filamentous fungi). When classical microbiological methods were carried out from samples of colon, isolates from some 400 microbial species were obtained, belonging especially to proteobacteria (including Enterobacteriaceae, such as E. coli), Firmicutes as Lactobacillus and some Clostridium, some Actinobacteria as Bifidobacterium, and also some Bacteroides. Among all these isolates, some have been recognized with positive effect on health and are used as probiotics, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, which are considered GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe).

But 10 years ago culture-independent molecular tools began to be used, by sequencing of ribosomal RNA genes, and they have revealed many more gut microorganisms, around 1000 species. As shown in Figure 2, taken from the good review of Rajilic-Stojanovic et al (2007), there are clearly two groups that have many more representatives than thought before: Bacteroides and Clostridiales.

 

Rajilic 2007 Fig 1

Figure 2. Phylogenetic tree based on 16S rRNA gene sequences of various phylotypes found in the human gastrointestinal tract. The proportion of cultured or uncultured phylotypes for each group is represented by the colour from white (cultured) passing through grey to black (uncultured). For each phylogenetic group the number of different phylotypes is indicated (Rajilic-Stojanovic et al 2007)

 

In more recent studies related to diet such as Walker et al (2011) — a work done with faecal samples from volunteers –, population numbers of the various groups were estimated by quantitative PCR of 16S rRNA gene. The largest groups, with 30% each, were Bacteroides and clostridia. Among Clostridiales were included: Faecalibacterium prausnitzii (11%), Eubacterium rectale (7%) and Ruminococcus (6%). As we see the clostridial group includes many different genera besides the known Clostridium.

In fact, if we consider the population of each species present in the human gastrointestinal tract, the most abundant seems to be a clostridial: F. prausnitzii (Duncan et al 2013).

 

Benefits of some clostridia

These last years it has been discovered that clostridial genera of Faecalibacterium, Eubacterium, Roseburia and Anaerostipes (Duncan et al 2013) are those which contribute most to the production of short chain fatty acids (SCFA) in the colon. Clostridia ferment dietary carbohydrate that escape digestion producing SCFA, mainly acetate, propionate and butyrate, which are found in the stool (50-100 mM) and are absorbed in the intestine. Acetate is metabolized primarily by the peripheral tissues, propionate is gluconeogenic, and butyrate is the main energy source for the colonic epithelium. The SCFA become in total 10% of the energy obtained by the human host. Some of these clostridia as Eubacterium and Anaerostipes also use as a substrate the lactate produced by other bacteria such as Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria, producing finally also the SCFA (Tiihonen et al 2010).

 

Clostridia of microbiota protect us against food allergen sensitization

This is the last found positive aspect of clostridia microbiota, that Stefka et al (2014) have shown in a recent excellent work. In administering allergens (“Ara h”) of peanut (Arachis hypogaea) to mice that had been treated with antibiotics or to mice without microbiota (Germ-free, sterile environment bred), these authors observed that there was a systemic allergic hyper reactivity with induction of specific immunoglobulins, id est., a sensitization.

In mice treated with antibiotics they observed a significant reduction in the number of bacterial microbiota (analysing the 16S rRNA gene) in the ileum and faeces, and also biodiversity was altered, so that the predominant Bacteroides and clostridia in normal conditions almost disappeared and instead lactobacilli were increased.

To view the role of these predominant groups in the microbiota, Stefka et al. colonized with Bacteroides and clostridia the gut of mice previously absent of microbiota. These animals are known as gnotobiotic, meaning animals where it is known exactly which types of microorganisms contain.

In this way, Stefka et al. have shown that selective colonization of gnotobiotic mice with clostridia confers protection against peanut allergens, which does not happen with Bacteroides. For colonization with clostridia, the authors used a spore suspension extracted from faecal samples of healthy mice and confirmed that the gene sequences of the extract corresponded to clostridial species.

So in effect, the mice colonized with clostridia had lower levels of allergen in the blood serum (Figure 3), had a lower content of immunoglobulins, there was no caecum inflammation, and body temperature was maintained. The mice treated with antibiotics which had presented the hyper allergic reaction when administered with antigens, also had a lower reaction when they were colonized with clostridia.

 

fig 4 skefta

Figure 3. Levels of “Ara h” peanut allergen in serum after ingestion of peanuts in mice without microbiota (Germ-free), colonized with Bacteroides (B. uniformis) and colonized with clostridia. From Stefka et al (2014).

 

In addition, in this work, Stefka et al. have conducted a transcriptomic analysis with microarrays of the intestinal epithelium cells of mice and they have found that the genes producing the cytokine IL-22 are induced in animals colonized with clostridia, and that this cytokine reduces the allergen uptake by the epithelium and thus prevents its entry into the systemic circulation, contributing to the protection against hypersensitivity. All these mechanisms, reviewed by Cao et al (2014), can be seen in the diagram of Figure 4.

In conclusion, this study opens new perspectives to prevent food allergies by modulating the composition of the intestinal microbiota. So, adding these anti-inflammatory qualities to the production of butyrate and other SCFA, and the lactate consumption, we must start thinking about the use of clostridia for candidates as probiotics, in addition to the known Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.

 

fig 4 Cao b

Figure 4. Induction of clostridia on cytokine production by epithelial cells of the intestine, as well as the production of short chain fatty acids (SCFA) by clostridia (Cao et al 2014).

 

References

Cao S, Feehley TJ, Nagler CR (2014) The role of commensal bacteria in the regulation of sensitization to food allergens. FEBS Lett 588, 4258-4266

Duncan SH, Flint HJ (2013) Probiotics and prebiotics and health in ageing populations. Maturitas 75, 44-50

Rajilic-Stojanovic M, Smidt H, de Vos WM (2007) Diversity of the human gastrointestinal tract microbiota revisited. Environ Microbiol 9, 2125-2136

Rosen M (2014) Gut bacteria may prevent food allergies. Science News 186, 7, 4 oct 2014

Russell SL, et al. (2012) Early life antibiotic-driven changes in microbiota enhance 
susceptibility to allergic asthma. EMBO Rep 13(5):440–447

Stefka AT et al (2014) Commensal bacteria protect against food allergen sensitization. Proc Nat Acad Sci 111, 13145-13150

Tiihonen K, Ouwehand AC, Rautonen N (2010) Human intestinal microbiota and healthy aging. Ageing Research Reviews 9:107–16

Walker AW et al (2011) Dominant and diet-responsive groups of bacteria within the human colonic microbiota. The ISME J 5, 220-230

 

 

Bacteria in the gut are controlling what we eat

It seems to be so: the microbes in our gastrointestinal tract (GIT) influence our choice of food. No wonder: microbes, primarily bacteria, are present in significant amounts in GIT, more than 10 bacterial cells for each of our cells, a total of 1014 (The human body has about 1013 cells). This amounts to about 1-1.5 kg. And these bacteria have lived with us always, since all mammals have them. So, they have evolved with our ancestors and therefore they are well suited to our internal environment. Being our bodies their habitat, much the better if they can control what reaches the intestine. And how can they do? Then giving orders to the brain to eat such a thing or that other, appropriate for them, the microbes.

Imagen1Figure 1.Command centre of the gastrointestinal tract” (own assembly,  Albert Bordons)

Well, gone seriously, there is some previous work in this direction. It seems there is a relationship between preferences for a particular diet and microbial composition of GIT (Norris et al 2013). In fact, it is a two-way interaction, one of the many aspects of symbiotic mutualism between us and our microbiota (Dethlefsen et al 2007).

There is much evidence that diet influences the microbiota. One of the most striking examples is that African children fed almost exclusively in sorghum have more cellulolytic microbes than other children (De Filippo et al 2010).

The brain can also indirectly influence the gut microbiota by changes in intestinal motility, secretion and permeability, or directly releasing specific molecules to the gut digestive lumen from the sub epithelial cells (neurons or from the immune system) (Rhee et al 2009).

The GIT is a complex ecosystem where different species of bacteria and other microorganisms must compete and cooperate among themselves and with the host cells. The food ingested by the host (human or other mammal) is an important factor in the continuous selection of these microbes and the nature of food is often determined by the preferences of the host. Those bacteria that are able to manipulate these preferences will have advantages over those that are not (Norris et al 2013).

Recently Alcock et al (2014) have reviewed the evidences of all this. Microbes can manipulate the feeding behaviour of the host in their own benefit through various possible strategies. We’ll see some examples in relation to the scheme of Figure 2.

 

Fig 2 human microbiome behaviour appetite

Figure 2. As if microbes were puppeteers and we humans were the puppets, microbes can control what we eat by a number of marked mechanisms. Adapted from Alcock et al 2014.

 

People who have “desires” of chocolate have different microbial metabolites in urine from people indifferent to chocolate, despite having the same diet.

Dysphoria, id est, human discomfort until we eat food which improve microbial “welfare”, may be due to the expression of bacterial virulence genes and perception of pain by the host. This is because the production of toxins is often triggered by a low concentration of nutrients limiting growth. The detection of sugars and other nutrients regulates virulence and growth of various microbes. These directly injure the intestinal epithelium when nutrients are absent. According to this hypothesis, it has been shown that bacterial virulence proteins activate pain receptors. It has been shown that fasting in mice increases the perception of pain by a mechanism of vagal nerve.

Microbes can also alter food preferences of guests changing the expression of taste receptors on the host. In this sense, for instance germ-free mice prefer more sweet food and have a greater number of sweet receptors on the tongue and intestine that mice with a normal microbiota.

The feeding behaviour of the host can also be manipulated by microbes through the nervous system, through the vagus nerve, which connects the 100 million neurons of the enteric nervous system from the gut to the brain via the medulla. Enteric nerves have receptors that react to the presence of certain bacteria and bacterial metabolites such as short chain fatty acids. The vagus nerve regulates eating behaviour and body weight. It has been seen that the activity of the vagus nerve of rats stimulated with norepinephrine causes that they keep eating despite being satiated. This suggests that GIT microbes produce neurotransmitters that can contribute to overeating.

Neurotransmitters produced by microbes are analogue compounds to mammalian hormones related to mood and behaviour. More than 50% of dopamine and most of serotonin in the body have an intestinal origin. Many persistent and transient inhabitants of the gut, including E. coli, several Bacillus, Staphylococcus and Proteus secrete dopamine. In Table 1 we can see the various neurotransmitters produced by GIT microbes. At the same time, it is known that host enzymes such as amine oxidase can degrade neurotransmitters produced by microorganisms, which demonstrates the evolutionary interactions between microbes and hosts.

 

Table 1. Diversity of neurotransmitters isolated from several microbial species (Roschchina 2010)

Neurotransmitter Genera
GABA (gamma-amino-butyric acid) Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium
Norepinephrine Escherichia, Bacillus, Saccharomyces
Serotonin Candida, Streptococcus, Escherichia, Enterococcus
Dopamine Bacillus, Serratia
Acetylcholine Lactobacillus

 

Some bacteria induce hosts to provide their favourite nutrients. For example, Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron inhabits the intestinal mucus, where it feeds on oligosaccharides secreted by goblet cells of the intestine, and this bacterium induces its host mammal to increase the secretion of these oligosaccharides. Instead, Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, a not degrading mucus, which is associated with B. thetaiotaomicron, inhibits the mucus production. Therefore, this is an ecosystem with multiple agents that interact with each other and with the host.

As microbiota is easily manipulated by prebiotics, probiotics, antibiotics, faecal transplants, and changes in diet, controlling and altering our microbiota provides a viable method to the otherwise insoluble problems of obesity and poor diet.

 

References

Alcock J, Maley CC, Aktipis CA (2014) Is eating behavior manipulated by the gastrointestinal microbiota? Evolutionary pressures and potential mechanisms. BioEssays 36, DOI: 10.1002/bies.201400071

De Filippo C, Cavalieri D, Di Paola M, Ramazzotti M, et al (2010) Impact of diet in shaping gut microbiota revealed by a comparative study in children from Europe and rural Africa. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 107:14691–6

Dethlefsen L, McFall-Ngai M, Relman DA (2007) An ecological and evolutionary perspective on human-microbe mutualism and disease. Nature 449:811-818

Lyte M (2011) Probiotics function mechanistically as delivery for neuroactive compounds: Microbial endocrinology in teh design and use of probiotics. BioEssays 33:574-581

Norris V, Molina F, Gewirtz AT (2013) Hypothesis: bacteria control host appetites. J Bacteriol 195:411–416

Rhee SH, Pothoulakis C, Mayer EA (2009) Principles and clinical implications of the brain–gut–enteric microbiota axis. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology and Hepatology 6:306-314

Roschchina VV (2010) Evolutionary considerations of neurotransmitters in microbial, plant, and animal cells. In Lyte M, Freestone PPE, eds; Microbial Endocrinology: Interkingdom Signaling in Infectious Disease and Health. New York: Springer. pp. 17–52

European cheese from 7400 years ago, and “yoghourt” in the Sahara 7000 years ago

One month ago (12th December 2012) a work (Salque et al. 2012) was published online in Nature, which provides archaeological evidence of cheese making in present Poland about 5400 years before Christ (BC). And in last June was also published another study in Nature (Dunne et al. 2012) which evidenced the production of fermented milk products like yoghourt in northeastern Sahara (now Libya) about 5000 BC.

Using the milk of other animals

Agriculture, that is, the domestication of plants by humans, began between 10000 and 5000 BC mainly in the Middle East (the Fertile Crescent, from the Nile to the Euphrates), but also independently in other regions, such as India, China and various parts of America and Africa. The Neolithic agricultural revolution led to the establishment of sedentary populations and the subsequent birth of cities and civilizations. At the same time, in these sites there were domesticated also animals, but it is likely that the domestication of cattle, sheep and goats have already occurred before, in nomad populations. The use of these animals brought some important advances, using them for secondary uses without killing them (the primary use is the flesh) such as traction, wool, and milk and dairy products.

1-M Kiani Qashqai Persia 3-NOMAD-PLACE-milk

Nomad Qashqai (Persia) milking a sheep. Photo: M. Kiani

The first pictorial and written records of the use of the milk of domestic animals are from Egypt and Mesopotamia around 3000 BC. But recently, the first clear evidence for previous organic waste stored in ceramic remains has been found, by analyzing the values of δ 13C (ratio between the isotopes 13C and 12C) of the main fatty acids from fat of milk. This technique, from Dudd and Eversheds (1998), is based on the differences between the values of δ 13C of stearic acid (C 18:0) in milk and adipose tissue of the same body of animal, due to the higher proportion of carbon derived from carbohydrates in the diet used in the biosynthesis of C 18:0 in body fat compared to milk, where 40% of C 18:0 derived from unsaturated fats.

This technique of δ 13C has shown the use of milk in the 4th millennium BC in Britain, in the 6th millennium in Eastern Europe, and recently (Eversheds et al. 2008) has been shown that in the 7th millennium BC, 9000 years ago, there was milking in the Middle East and Southeast Europe, particularly in Anatolia.

But when the adults began to drink human milk?

2-beure llet

As you know, the lactose of milk is not tolerated by many adults, especially of Asian, Native Americans and many Africans. The enzyme lactase that hydrolyzes lactose into glucose and galactose is present in all the babies, but like all other mammals, when they become older, the gene for lactase is not expressed. The exception is those people that maintain the production of lactase in adulthood and so they can drink milk without problems. For those who do not tolerate milk, the reason is due to lactose fermentation by bacteria in the gut, which gives rise to diarrhea, flatulence and other disorders.

3-Rainer Zenz 550px-Laktoseintoleranz-1.svg

Percentages of human populations not tolerant to lactose. Map made by Rainer Zenz.

The humans more tolerant to lactose are of European origin and those in regions nearby the Sahara and the Middle East. In Europe there is a gradient from high to low tolerance northwest towards the southeast. Molecular biology studies have shown that tolerance to lactose appeared by mutation of a single nucleotide at different times and places, between 8000 and 3000 years ago, in pastoral peoples of northern Europe and Arabia (Swallow 2003, Enattah et al. 2008, Tellam 2012). This genetic characteristic was selected due to its positive nutritional benefits, and also because in the desert milk is a source of water, and also in northern Europe milk can replace the lack of calcium due to low solar radiation and therefore short synthesis of vitamin D needed for calcium absorption.

Cheese and fermented milk products for lactose intolerants

Cheese is the curdled milk from which is extracted, in part or all, the whey, id est, the milk with water soluble components, which are mostly lactose. The remaining precipitate is the cheese, which contains fat and milk protein but very little lactose. Therefore, for people lactose-intolerant cheese is a food nutritionally equivalent to milk, but without the inconvenience of lactose. In addition, cheese is kept longer than milk and takes many different tastes and textures, depending on the curdling process and on microorganisms involved in their maturation. In fermented milk such as yoghourt and other (Kefir, Kumi, Leben, etc.) microorganisms are involved, especially lactic acid bacteria, which consume part of lactose and produce lactic acid, which favors conservation. The content of lactose in these fermented milks is not as low as in cheese but they can be consumed by most lactose intolerant people.

For this reason, the use of various types of cheese and / or fermented milk is almost universal to humans, regardless of whether or not they are tolerant to lactose and probably it existed in various nomad peoples, with the first domesticated animals, and surely this was the first way to use the milk of these animals.

Evidence of cheese made in Europe about 7400 years

As said earlier, a work (Salque et al 2012) has been recently published online in Nature which provides archaeological evidence of cheese making in today’s Poland about 5400 years before Christ (BC).

At the beginning of the Neolithic sites (about 8000 years) from various parts of Europe containers with small holes appear, with shaped sieve, that have been thought for years as strainers cheese, similar to those used today in some regions. The milk is placed in the container, the rennet is added (from the stomach of ruminants, containing protease), and the precipitated curdled is squeezed, separating out the whey through the holes, to get the cheese (Subbaraman 2012).

4-ceramica formtagera3

Drawing representing a reconstructed vessel (left) and a portion of an actual piece of this container (right) with holes as a sieve, from a site of Kuyavia region (in central Poland). Image from Salque et al. (2012).

Salque et al. (2012) have shown by the above mentioned technique δ 13C (in addition to analyze by gas chromatography the composition of lipids) that the remains of fatty acids found at the site of vessel Kuyavia (north of Warsaw) were coming from milk. The fat composition and δ 13C values ​​of these vessels strainers are different from those found in other containers like pots where probably meat of different animals was cooked. Therefore, they demonstrate that these containers were used to make cheeses strainers, specifically about 7400 years ago. The authors emphasize the importance of this type of pottery in the processing of dairy products, indicating in particular the importance for lactose-intolerant prehistoric communities.

Evidence of fermented milk (yoghourt ?) in the Sahara 7000 years ago

As said above, last June another study was published in Nature (Dunne et al. 2012), which evidenced the production of fermented milk in northeastern Sahara (now Libya) about 7000 years ago.

In contrast to the well known process of early Neolithic settlements and agriculture in the Middle East, in the Sahara the pastoralism with cows, sheep and goats began long before the domestication of plants. Seeing the present desert of Sahara, so arid and inhospitable, it seems impossible that human communities prospered there with large herds, but this region enjoyed a very favorable climatically wet period that began some 10.000 years ago and there is plenty of evidence that 8000 years ago there proliferated all types of wildlife in the savannas of the current Sahara. Groups of hunters and gatherers who lived there already used the pottery to preserve food, and gradually, with the increase of the drought, had become more dependent on livestock.

A demonstration of these nomad livestock are the remarkable paintings and rock carvings found in the desert of southwest Libya (Wadi Teshuinat or Takarkori Acacus mountains, or in the area of Wadi Tiksatin Messak) from some 7000 years ago, possibly the most important concentration of prehistoric art in the world, with many scenes of daily life. In these representations it can be seen the importance of livestock for these humans, with drawings of obvious milking cows. However, there is no reliable dating of these prints.

5-pintures rupestres Sahara

Schematic drawings of Wadi Teshuinat cave, southwest Libya. Figure taken from Dunne et al. (2012).

The group of Julie Dunne and Richard Eversheds at the University of Bristol with the group of Savino di Lernia from University of Sapienza, studied the remains of fat present in the pottery of Takarkori site by gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry, and the aforementioned technical isotopes (δ 13C). Their results show that these potteries were used to produce fermented milk products like yoghourt, between 7000 and 4800 years ago. In addition, they found that milk fat came from a variety of plants from different places, which suggests that people were migrating with their herds, depending on the season. This work confirms that the economy of dairy products derived from domesticated cattle was active during this period, probably to compensate for lactose intolerant.

6-vaso_murzuq

Murzuq ceramics, from the site of Takarkori, Libya. Photo: Savino di Lernia

Following this work, some scientists (Callaway 2012) have suggested that subsequent to this period, the lactose tolerance mutation arose in Europe and Arabia and spread through North Africa due to its advantages. In the increasingly arid climate of the desert, to drink fresh and uncontaminated milk should lead to a better hydration respect to other people which had the tolerance gene not activated. Thus, there was a strong selective pressure for the spread of lactose tolerance in north Africa.

 

Bibliography

Arjamaa O, T Vuorisalo (2010) Genes, cultura y dieta. Investigación y Ciencia, 405, june 2010, 69-77

Callaway E (2012) Pottery shards put a date on Africa’s dairying. North Africans may have been making yoghurt 7,000 years ago. Nature News, 20 june 2012-12-22

Dudd SN, RP Evershed (1998) Direct Demonstration of Milk as an Element of Archaeological Economies. Science 282, 1478-1481

Dunne J et al (2012) First dairying in green Saharan Africa in the fifth millennium bc. Nature 486, 390–394 (21 June 2012) doi:10.1038/nature11186

Enattah NS et al. (2008) Independent introduction of two lactase-persistence alleles into human populations reflects different history of adaptation to milk culture. Am J Human Genetics 82, 57-72.

Evershed RPet al. (2008) Earliest date for milk use in the Near East and southeastern Europe linked to cattle herding. Nature 455, 528-531 (25 September 2008), doi:10.1038/nature07180

Salque, M. et al. (2012) Earliest evidence for cheese making in the sixth millennium BC in northern Europe. Nature http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature11698

Subbaraman, N (2012) Art of cheese-making is 7,500 years old. Neolithic pottery fragments from Europe reveal traces of milk fats. Nature News, 12 dec 2012

Swallow DM (2003) Genetics of lactase persistence and lactose intolerance. Annu. Rev. Genet. 37, 197-219

Tellam R (2012) How dairying shaped the human genome. International Milk Genomics Consortium

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