In addition to lactobacilli, healthy guts also contain many bifidobacteria. These bacterial species both produce lactic acid, yet differ in the other effects they have. In South Korea, scientists recently discovered that the presence of bifidobacteria results in the increased production of anti-inflammatory immune cells in the gut wall. This may help prevent or keep down enteritis and promote good gut health. Bifidobacteria could also possibly be used to slow down or even suppress allergies or autoimmune disorders.
We have been aware for some time that people suffering from inflammatory gastro-intestinal diseases show a lower number of bifidobacteria in the gut when compared to healthy subjects. We also know that in small children, lack of bifido may increase the risk of allergies. Hence, people with gut disorders, gut inflammation or autoimmune diseases have been treated with probiotic, i.e. living bifido cells.
The South Korean scientists’ results have now demonstrated that rather than the living cell, it is the bifidobacteria’s cell wall with its surface structure based on polysaccharides (complex sugar chains) which is responsible for the positive, anti-inflammatory reaction.
In an article published on “Wissenschaft aktuell”, the science journalist Joachim Czichos concluded that it would no longer be necessary to provide treatment with “living probiotic bacteria”, rather, “applying parts of these bacteria’s cell walls to prevent persistent inflammation in the gut or treat disorders such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.” These cell components are also contained in extracts used for microbiotic skincare or in microbiotic agents against multiresistant pathogens.