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J Affect Disord. 2016 Sep 15;202:254-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2016.05.038. Epub 2016 May 24.

Possible association of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus in the gut microbiota of patients with major depressive disorder.

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  • 1Department of Mental Disorder Research, National Institute of Neuroscience, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, Tokyo, Japan.
  • 2Yakult Central Institute, Tokyo, Japan.
  • 3Department of Psychiatry, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry Hospital, Tokyo, Japan.
  • 4Department of Mental Disorder Research, National Institute of Neuroscience, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, Tokyo, Japan. Electronic address:



Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus in the gut have been suggested to have a beneficial effect on stress response and depressive disorder. We examined whether these bacterial counts are reduced in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) than in healthy controls.


Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus counts in fecal samples were estimated in 43 patients and 57 controls using bacterial rRNA-targeted reverse transcription-quantitative polymerase chain reaction


The patients had significantly lower Bifidobacterium counts (P=0.012) and tended to have lower Lactobacillus counts (P=0.067) than the controls. Individuals whose bacterial counts below the optimal cut-off point (9.53 and 6.49log10 cells/g for Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, respectively) were significantly more common in the patients than in the controls for both bacteria (Bifidobacterium: odds ratio 3.23, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.38-7.54, P=0.010; Lactobacillus: 2.57, 95% CI 1.14-5.78, P=0.027). Using the same cut-off points, we observed an association between the bacterial counts and Irritable bowel syndrome. Frequency of fermented milk consumption was associated with higher Bifidobacterium counts in the patients.


The findings should be interpreted with caution since effects of gender and diet were not fully taken into account in the analysis.


Our results provide direct evidence, for the first time, that individuals with lower Bifidobacterium and/or Lactobacillus counts are more common in patients with MDD compared to controls. Our findings provide new insight into the pathophysiology of MDD and will enhance future research on the use of pro- and prebiotics in the treatment of MDD.


Bifidobacterium; Distress; Gut microbiota; Irritable bowel syndrome; Lactobacillus; Major depressive disorder

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