Beneficial findings concerning probiotics are increasing day by day. However, one of the most important parameter which affects the probiotic activity of a microorganism is its survival during the gastroduodenal transit. Some microencapsulation techniques could be applied to bacterial cells to improve this parameter.
A comparison between the intestinal colonization by microencapsulated bacteria and the same not microencapsulated strains has been conducted in a double blind, randomized, cross-over study. The study (April to July 2005) involved 44 healthy volunteers. In particular, participants were divided into 2 groups: group A (21 participants) received a mix of probiotic strains Lactobacillus plantarum LP01 (LMG P-21021) and Bifidobacterium breve BR03 (DSM 16604) in an uncoated form, group B (23 participants) was given the same strains microencapsulated with a gastroresistant material. The not microencapsulated strains were administered at 5×109 colony forming units/strain/d for 21 days, whereas the microencapsulated bacteria were given at 1×109 colony forming units/strain/d for 21 days. At the end of the first period of treatment with probiotics a 3 weeks washout phase has been included in the study protocol. At the end of the washout period the groups were crossed: in detail, group A had the microencapsulated and group B the uncoated bacteria. The administered amounts of each strain were the same as the first treatment. The quantitative evaluation of intestinal colonization by strains microencapsulated or not microencapsulated was made by fecal samples examination at the beginning of the clinical trial, after 10 and 21 days of each treatment period. In particular, fecal heterofermentative Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria have been counted.
A statistically significant increase in the fecal amounts of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria was recorded in both groups at the end of each treatment compared with d0 or d42 (P<0.0001 and P<0.0001 at d21, P<0.0001 and P<0.0001 at d63 for Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, respectively), confirming the ability of the 2 strains to colonize the human gut, either in a gastroprotected form or not. Participants treated with the microencapsulated bacteria reported a kinetics of intestinal colonization quite similar to participants who received not coated strains.
Probiotics are able to exert many different beneficial effects on the human host. These effects are mediated by the number of viable cells which reach the gut. The microencapsulation techique used in this study is a valid strategy to significantly improve gastroresistance of strains, thus enhancing their probiotic activity and allowing the use of a 5 times lower amount.