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Bifidobacteria were first described in the literature by the French pediatrician Henry Tissier in1900 isolated in intestinal flora of breast-fed infants. Before the 1960s they were thought to belong to the genus Lactobacillus and all the species were collectively referred to as Lactobacillus bifidus. However, due to the latest advantage of the molecular biology in studying the genes, the compounds of the cell wall, and the metabolic properties, they were shifted to another genus Bifidus (Latin: Y shape).Theyare Gram-positive, nonmotile, often branched anaerobebacteria. Some strains are considered as importantprobiotics. Up today they are known 30 species, some of them are B.* infantis, B. breve,B. pseudocatenulatum, B. adolescentis, B. longum, and B. bifidum (Synonym: Actinomycesbifidus). They are ubiquitous, endosymbiotic inhabitantsof the gastrointestinal tract, vagina and mouth of mammals, including humans. The bifidobacteria are not pathogene with exception of B dentium.
Bifidobacteria are one of the major genera of bacteria that make up the colon flora in mammals. Our eating habits define which subspecies bifidobacteria will make the major colony in the gastrointestinal tract; for example, in breast-fed babies naturally dominates the number of B. bifidum, however in babies fed with formula dominates B. pseudocatenulatum. According to another source B. infantis, B. bifidum, B. longum and B. breve make up to 99% out of the total number bifidobacteria in stool of one-week-old brest-fed babies, whereas 65% are to find in one-week babies (same age) but fed with formula. The percentage of the same species decreases even to 12% inadults because the percentage of B.adolescentis mostly increses (Lexikon). One main propertyof the B.adolescentis is theproduction of the vitamin folate is here worth to note.
In the last decade many studies have been addressed to the bifidobacteria. The relationship between disease and intake of bifidobacteria is of particular interest. Japanese scientists were able to conclude that children consuming products with the presence of B. pseudocatenulatum have a much milder manifestations of a topic dermatitis. Researchers from the University of Manchester found that irritable bowel syndrome has being improved by bifidobacteria, mainly by B.infantis and B. breve, both used in the food industry. Most self-hacker in the DIY-bio community, are trying to increase Actinobacteria phyla, among them Bifidobacterium genus of course. Communities like these knows that a yogurt enriched with particular strains (Bifidobacterium complex made of B. bifidum, B. infantis, B. longum, B. breve, and B.adolescentis) is better absorbed or tolerated than a pill with the dehydrated form of the strains.Another interesting fact is that some bifidobacteria used in food industry do not multiply in the intestine. They have a very beneficial effect, but it can be achieved only through permanent imports of bacteria with the food.
The properties of the bifidobacteria distinguish them as one of the biggest "helpers" in the gastrointestinal tract. Like other probiotics they enhance immunity, heal intestinal mucosa, and promote gastro-intestinal comfort as well. Since the bifidobacteria are part of the normal gastrointestinal flora of every healthy person, we can call them "good" bacteria. However, their role in the gut flora has not been fully clarified and their place in our daily menu remains unclear. Actually, the most important questions to be answered are: who, how and how much bacteria should take with the food after adjusting to the individual needs and health status.
* B.: the abbreviation stands for Bifidobacterium
GBIF Backbone Taxonomy, 2013-07-01. Accessed viahttp://www.gbif.org/species/3223496 on 2015-08-16.
Lexikon der Ernährung. Spektrum AkademischerVerlag, Heidelberg, 2001. Accessed viahttp://www.spektrum.de/lexikon/ernaehrung/bifidus-bakterien/1070 on 2015-08-16.