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Front Microbiol. 2015 Feb 17;6:58. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2015.00058. eCollection 2015.

Discovering probiotic microorganisms: in vitro, in vivo, genetic and omics approaches.

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Laboratory of Dairy Research, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Agricultural University of Athens, Athens Greece.
Bactéries Lactiques et Immunité des Muqueuses, Institut Pasteur de Lille, Centre d'Infection et d'Immunité de Lille, Université Lille Nord de France, CNRS UMR8204, Lille France.


Over the past decades the food industry has been revolutionized toward the production of functional foods due to an increasing awareness of the consumers on the positive role of food in wellbeing and health. By definition probiotic foods must contain live microorganisms in adequate amounts so as to be beneficial for the consumer's health. There are numerous probiotic foods marketed today and many probiotic strains are commercially available. However, the question that arises is how to determine the real probiotic potential of microorganisms. This is becoming increasingly important, as even a superficial search of the relevant literature reveals that the number of proclaimed probiotics is growing fast. While the vast majority of probiotic microorganisms are food-related or commensal bacteria that are often regarded as safe, probiotics from other sources are increasingly being reported raising possible regulatory and safety issues. Potential probiotics are selected after in vitro or in vivo assays by evaluating simple traits such as resistance to the acidic conditions of the stomach or bile resistance, or by assessing their impact on complicated host functions such as immune development, metabolic function or gut-brain interaction. While final human clinical trials are considered mandatory for communicating health benefits, rather few strains with positive studies have been able to convince legal authorities with these health claims. Consequently, concern has been raised about the validity of the workflows currently used to characterize probiotics. In this review we will present an overview of the most common assays employed in screening for probiotics, highlighting the potential strengths and limitations of these approaches. Furthermore, we will focus on how the advent of omics technologies has reshaped our understanding of the biology of probiotics, allowing the exploration of novel routes for screening and studying such microorganisms.


health claim; in vitro model; in vivo model; mechanism; molecular marker; omics; probiotics; screening

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