Researchers have discovered a surprising place for inspiration to develop new probiotic compounds—infant feces. No, you did not misread the end of the previous sentence. Investigators at Wake Forest School of Medicine have developed a probiotic “cocktail” derived from gut bacteria strains found in infant feces that may help increase the body's ability to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). Findings from the new study were released in Scientific Reports through an article titled “Human-origin probiotic cocktail increases short-chain fatty acid production via modulation of mice and human gut microbiome.”
So why baby poo you ask? Data on the effects of probiotics in healthy, disease-free subjects have remained relatively limited and inconsistent. “Babies are usually pretty healthy and clearly do not suffer from age-related diseases, such as diabetes and cancer,” explains senior study investigator Hariom Yadav, Ph.D., assistant professor of molecular medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine. “And, of course, their poop is readily available.”
Over the past decade, research has shown that specific probiotic strains can effectively prevent or treat certain diseases in both animal models and humans. These reports have led to an extensive demand for probiotic supplements over the last decade, thereby prompting a massive increase in the development of new probiotic products for the consumer market.
“Short-chain fatty acids are a key component of good gut health,” Dr. Hariom notes. “People with diabetes, obesity, autoimmune disorders, and cancers frequently have fewer short-chain fatty acids. Increasing them may be helpful in maintaining or even restoring a normal gut environment, and hopefully, improving health.”
In the current study, the Wake Forest team collected fecal samples from the diapers of 34 healthy infants. After following a robust protocol of isolation, characterization, and safety validation of infant gut-origin Lactobacillus and Enterococcus strains with probiotic attributes—the researchers selected the ten best out of the 321 analyzed.
“We developed a human-origin probiotic cocktail with the ability to modulate gut microbiota to increase native SCFA production,” the authors wrote. “Following a robust protocol of isolation, characterization, and safety validation of infant gut-origin Lactobacillus and Enterococcus strains with probiotic attributes (tolerance to simulated gastric and intestinal conditions, adherence to intestinal epithelial cells, absence of potential virulence genes, cell-surface hydrophobicity, and susceptibility to common antibiotics), we selected ten strains (five from each genera) out of total 321 isolates. A single dose (oral gavage) as well as five consecutive doses of this ten-strain probiotic cocktail in mice modulates gut microbiome and increases SCFA production (particularly propionate and butyrate).”
To test the ability of these human-origin probiotics to change the gut microbiome—bacteria that live inside the digestive tract—and their capacity to produce SCFAs, mice were given a single dose, as well as five consecutive doses of this ten-strain probiotic cocktail. Then the researchers injected the same probiotic mixture in the same doses into human feces medium.
The scientists found that the single- and five-dose feeding of these selected probiotics modulated the gut microbiome and enhanced the production of SCFAs in mouse gut and human feces.
“This work provides evidence that these human-origin probiotics could be exploited as biotherapeutic regimens for human diseases associated with gut microbiome imbalance and decreased SCFA production in the gut,” Dr. Yadav concludes. “Our data should be useful for future studies aimed at investigating the influence of probiotics on human microbiome, metabolism, and associated diseases.”