Background: Beneficial findings concerning probiotics are increasing day by day. However, one of the most important parameters able to significantly affect the probiotic value of a microorganism is its survival during the transit through the stomach and the duodenum. Some techniques may be applied that aim to improve this parameter, but microencapsulation of bacterial cells remains one of the most important. A recent study assessed the kinetics of intestinal colonization by a mixture of 2 probiotic strains, given either in a microencapsulated or in a traditional, uncoated form.
Methods: A comparison between the intestinal colonization by associating 5 microencapsulated bacteria and the same uncoated strains was performed by a double-blind, randomized, cross-over study. The study (December 2007 to January 2009) involved 53 healthy volunteers. In particular, subjects were divided into 2 groups: group A (27 subjects) was given a mix of probiotic strains Probiotical S.p.A. (Novara, Italy), Lactobacillus acidophilus LA02 (DSM 21717), Lactobacillus rhamnosus LR04 (DSM 16605), L. rhamnosus GG, or LGG (ATCC 53103), L. rhamnosus LR06 (DSM 21981), and Bifidobacterium lactis BS01 (LMG P-21384) in an uncoated form, whereas group B (26 subjects) received the same strains microencapsulated with a gastroprotected material. The uncoated strains were administered at 5×109 cfu/strain/d (a total of 25×109 cfu/d) for 21 days, whereas the microencapsulated bacteria were given at 1×109 cfu/strain/d (a total of 5×109 cfu/d) for 21 days. At the end of the first period of supplementation with probiotics, a 3-week wash-out phase was included in the study setting. At the end of the wash-out period, the groups crossed over their treatment regimen; that is, group A was administered the microencapsulated bacteria and group B the uncoated bacteria. The administered quantities of each strain were the same as the first treatment. A quantitative evaluation of intestinal colonization by probiotics, either microencapsulated or uncoated, was undertaken by examining fecal samples at the beginning of the study (time 0), after 10 days and after 21 days of each treatment period. In particular, fecal total Lactobacilli, heterofermentative Lactobacilli, and total Bifidobacteria were quantified at each checkpoint. A genomic analysis of an appropriate number of colonies was performed to quantify individual L. rhamnosus strains among heterofermentative Lactobacilli.
Results: A statistically significant increase in the fecal amounts of total Lactobacilli, heterofermentative Lactobacilli, and total Bifidobacteria was registered in both groups at the end of each supplementation period compared with d0 or d42 (group A: P=0.0002, P=0.0001, and P<0.0001 at d21, P=0.0060, P=0.0069, and P<0.0001 at d63 for total Lactobacilli, heterofermentative Lactobacilli, and Bifidobacteria, respectively; group B: P=0.0002, P=0.0006, and P<0.0001 at d21, P=0.0015, P=0.0016, and P<0.0001 at d63 for total Lactobacilli, heterofermentative Lactobacilli, and Bifidobacteria, respectively), confirming the ability of each strain in the administered composition to colonize the human gut, whether supplemented in a gastroprotected or in a traditional freeze-dried form. On the contrary, subjects receiving microencapsulated bacteria reported a kinetics of intestinal colonization that was entirely comparable with those who were given uncoated strains at a 5 times higher amount.
Conclusions: The microencapsulation technique used in this study is a valid approach aimed to significantly improve the survival of strains during gastroduodenal transit, thus enhancing their probiotic value and allowing the use of a 5 times lower amount.