Increasing consumer awareness of health-promoting intestinal bacteria has fueled the addition of viable probiotic bacteria as functional ingredients in certain foods. However, to effectively market the enhanced attributes of these foods, the added probiotic bacteria need to have scientific credibility. The scientific rationale for using many of the strains of probiotic bacteria currently on the market is weak. Furthering the current understanding of what features a bacterium needs to have for effective probiotic functionality will enable the selection of strains with a more credible scientific rationale. To screen for effective strains, one must understand the microbial diversity in the intestines of healthy individuals. The advent of molecular tools has greatly enhanced our ability to accomplish this. These tools comprise genetic fingerprinting, specific probes, molecular speciation, and techniques for the in situ analysis of specific microbial groups in the intestine. This review will detail these scientific approaches and how their impact will improve criteria for selection of probiotic bacteria.
- Intestinal microflora
- Probiotic bacteria