The beneficial human gut microbe Faecalibacterium prausnitzii is a 'probiotic of the future' since it produces high amounts of butyrate and anti-inflammatory compounds. However, this bacterium is highly oxygen-senstive, making it notoriously difficult to cultivate and preserve. This has so far precluded its clinical application in the treatment of patients with inflammatory bowel diseases. The present studies were therefore aimed at developing a strategy to keep F. prausnitzii alive at ambient air. Our previous research showed that F. prausnitzii can survive in moderately oxygenized environments like the gut mucosa by transfer of electrons to oxygen. For this purpose, the bacterium exploits extracellular antioxidants, such as riboflavin and cysteine, that are abundantly present in the gut. We therefore tested to what extent these antioxidants can sustain the viability of F. prausnitzii at ambient air. The present results show that cysteine can facilitate the survival of F. prausnitzii upon exposure to air, and that this effect is significantly enhanced the by addition of riboflavin and the cryoprotectant inulin. The highly oxygen-sensitive gut bacterium F. prausnitzii can be kept alive at ambient air for 24 h when formulated with the antioxidants cysteine and riboflavin plus the cryoprotectant inulin. Improved formulations were obtained by addition of the bulking agents corn starch and wheat bran. Our present findings pave the way towards the biomedical exploitation of F. prausnitzii in redox-based therapeutics for treatment of dysbiosis-related inflammatory disorders of the human gut. © 2014 Khan et al.
Khan, M. T., Van Dijl, J. M., & Harmsen, H. J. M. (2014). Antioxidants keep the potentially probiotic but highly oxygen-sensitive human gut bacterium Faecalibacterium prausnitzii alive at ambient air. PLoS ONE, 9(5). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0096097