The food industry has harnessed various fungal strains for their fermenting and flavor-producing abilities, as well as for creating heterologous compounds. A recent study published in the American Society for Microbiology journal mSystems has revealed that two fungi commonly used in food production may offer potential probiotic benefits for stomach inflammation. This study introduces an innovative approach to developing novel probiotics. Little was previously known about the diversity of foodborne yeasts and their potential influence on gut microbiota and gut health.
Yeasts are microscopic fungi comprised of single cells that reproduce through budding. Some yeast strains, like Saccharomyces cerevisiae for wine and bread production, have been used for centuries. Others, such as Debaryomyces hansenii, are used in cheese production for crust formation and ripening.
“There is much to learn by studying the role of the fungal strains in the microbiota and host health and also that species simply used in food processes can be the source of new probiotics,” stated lead study author Mathias L. Richard, PhD, Research Director at INRAE in the Micalis Institute in Jouy-en-Josas, France.
In this research, scientists initially selected yeasts extensively employed in food production, representing various yeast species. They then conducted tests, including interactions with cultured human cells and an animal model designed to mimic ulcerative colitis.
The researchers conducted the new study because they are working to further knowledge of the potential effect of the fungal microbiota on human health. In this particular study, the idea was to target specifically the fungi that are used by food companies to produce food products (cheeses, charcuterie). “Since our interest is more focused on the role of fungi in gut health and on the development of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), we monitored the effect of these fungi on adapted in vitro and in vivo models,” Richard stated.
The findings indicated that among the strains commonly used in food production, some yeasts could have a positive impact on gut health and the host, particularly in an inflammatory context. Two yeast strains, Cyberlindnera jadinii and Kluyveromyces lactis, were identified as having potentially beneficial effects in an experimental mouse model of ulcerative colitis. Several additional experiments were conducted to understand the mechanisms behind these effects.
In the case of Cyberlindnera jadinii, the protection against inflammation appeared to be linked to alterations in the bacterial microbiota following the administration of this yeast to the mice. These changes in the microbiota, in turn, seemed to modify the host’s sensitivity to gut inflammation, although the exact mechanism remains unknown. This study sheds light on the potential role of specific yeasts in promoting gut health and reducing inflammation, opening up new avenues for the development of probiotics with potential therapeutic benefits.
“These 2 strains have never been specifically described with such beneficial effect, so even if it needs to be studied further, and particularly to see how they are efficient in humans, it is a promising discovery,” Richard stated.
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