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Front Microbiol. 2016 Jun 15;7:925. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.00925. eCollection 2016.

Bifidobacteria and Their Role as Members of the Human Gut Microbiota.

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Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre and School of Microbiology, University College Cork Cork, Ireland.


Members of the genus Bifidobacterium are among the first microbes to colonize the human gastrointestinal tract and are believed to exert positive health benefits on their host. Due to their purported health-promoting properties, bifidobacteria have been incorporated into many functional foods as active ingredients. Bifidobacteria naturally occur in a range of ecological niches that are either directly or indirectly connected to the animal gastrointestinal tract, such as the human oral cavity, the insect gut and sewage. To be able to survive in these particular ecological niches, bifidobacteria must possess specific adaptations to be competitive. Determination of genome sequences has revealed genetic attributes that may explain bifidobacterial ecological fitness, such as metabolic abilities, evasion of the host adaptive immune system and colonization of the host through specific appendages. However, genetic modification is crucial toward fully elucidating the mechanisms by which bifidobacteria exert their adaptive abilities and beneficial properties. In this review we provide an up to date summary of the general features of bifidobacteria, whilst paying particular attention to the metabolic abilities of this species. We also describe methods that have allowed successful genetic manipulation of bifidobacteria.


Bifidobacterium; carbohydrate metabolism; genetic modification; microbe-host interaction; probiotics

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