AIM: To evaluate the ability of specific carbohydrates, including commercially available products, to support the growth of representatives of two well-known groups of gut commensals, namely lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. METHODS AND RESULTS: Sixty-eight bacterial strains, representing 29 human-derived lactobacilli and 39 bifidobacteria (both human- and animal-derived), were tested for their ability to metabolize 10 different carbohydrates. Analysis of growth and metabolic activity was performed using a combination of diagnostic parameters, such as final OD600 , final pH, fermentation end products and growth rate. CONCLUSIONS: The data assembled in this study provide significant complementary and comparative information on the growth-promoting properties of a range of carbohydrates, while also investigating interspecies differences between lactobacilli and/or bifidobacteria with regard to their carbohydrate utilization abilities. Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) and lactulose were shown to support the most favourable growth characteristics, whereas relatively poor growth of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria was observed on inulin, maltodextrin and polydextrose. GOS/inulin (9 : 1) and fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS)/inulin mixtures supported mostly similar growth abilities to those obtained for GOS and FOS, respectively. Microbial consumption of GOS, as determined by high-performance anion-exchange chromatography with pulsed amperometric detection, was evident for both lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPACT OF THE STUDY: These results may allow for the rational prediction of lactobacilli and/or bifidobacteria to be used in conjunction with prebiotics, such as GOS, as synbiotics.
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