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Microb Ecol. 2004 Jul;48(1):128-38. Epub 2004 Apr 19.

Immobilization of infant fecal microbiota and utilization in an in vitro colonic fermentation model.

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Dairy Research Centre STELA, Pavillon Paul Comtois, Université Laval, Québec, PQ, Canada G1K 7P4.


Bacteria isolated from infant feces were immobilized in polysaccharide gel beads (2.5% gellan gum, 0.25% xanthan gum) using a two-phase dispersion process. A 52-day continuous culture was carried out in a single-stage chemostat containing precolonized beads and fed with a medium formulated to approximate the composition of infant chyme. Different dilution rates and pH conditions were tested to simulate the proximal (PCS), transverse (TCS), and distal (DCS) colons. Immobilization preserved all nine bacterial groups tested with survival rates between 3 and 56%. After 1 week fermentation, beads were highly colonized with all populations tested (excepted Staphylococcus spp. present in low numbers), which remained stable throughout the 7.5 weeks of fermentation, with variations below 1 log unit. However, free-cell populations in the circulating liquid medium, produced by immobilized cell growth, cell-release activity from gel beads, and free-cell growth, were altered considerably by culture conditions. Compared to the stabilization period, PCS was characterized by a considerable and rapid increase in Bifidobacterium spp. concentrations (7.4 to 9.6 log CFU/mL), whereas Bifidobacterium spp., Lactobacillus spp., and Clostridium spp. concentrations decreased and Staphylococcus spp. and coliforms increased during TCS and DCS. Under pseudo-steady-state conditions, the community structure developed in the chemostat reflected the relative proportions of viable bacterial numbers and metabolites generally encountered in infant feces. This work showed that a complex microbiota such as infant fecal bacteria can be immobilized and used in a continuous in vitro intestinal fermentation model to reproduce the high bacterial concentration and bacterial diversity of the feces inoculum, at least at the genera level, with a high stability during long-term experiment.

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