Consumption of bifidobacteria as a dietary adjunct has received considerable attention for its possible role in the maintenance of gastrointestinal health. However, speculation exists about these presumed health benefits because of an inability to assess the fate and mechanism of action of ingested bifidobacteria. Thus, our objective was to examine the fate of ingested bifidobacteria through the gastrointestinal tract. Variations in the highly conserved 16S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) of bifidobacteria from six male subjects (18 to 35 y old) were assessed by restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis. During the 16-d study, 1010 colony- forming units (CFU) of a commercially available bifidobacteria were delivered to subjects in fluid milk for each of 8 d. During the remaining 8 d, subjects consumed milk without bifidobacteria. Feces were collected at 4-d intervals and plated on selective media. For each subject, 10-15 colonies were randomly selected and used as template for PCR-amplification of 16S rDNA. 16S rDNA was restriction digested and resolved by electrophoresis. The 16S rDNA-RFLP of the ingested bifidobacteria was unique compared with bifidobacteria found in subjects prior to the feeding study. When subjects consumed bifidobacteria, a 16S rDNA-RFLP identical to that of the ingested bifidobacteria was observed in feces. The concentration of the ingested bifidobacteria in feces increased to 67.2 ± 8.5% (mean ± SEM) of total bifidobacteria. After feeding stopped, the ingested bifidobacteria diminished and became undetectable. Using this molecular approach to monitor ingested bifidobacteria, we demonstrate the kinetics of passage of this organism through the gastrointestinal tract of healthy humans.
- 16S rRNA
- gastrointestinal tract