Exploring the Probiotic Potential of Fungi in Food Production

The food industry has harnessed and carefully chosen numerous fungal strains for their ability to ferment, generate unique flavors, or produce foreign molecules.

White Mushroom / Fungi in Wood Bonnet Fungi in Wood

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As detailed in a recent study published in the journal mSystems, affiliated with the American Society for Microbiology, two fungi employed in food production exhibit promising probiotic properties that could help alleviate gut inflammation. This research sheds light on a potential avenue for creating novel probiotics.

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.”

Mathias L. Richard Ph.D., Study Lead Author and Research Director, INRAE, Micalis Institute

Currently, the understanding of the variety of foodborne yeasts and their potential impact on gut microbiota and gut well-being remains quite limited. Yeasts, a type of microfungi characterized by single-cell structures that multiply through budding, have been utilized for centuries.

For instance, Saccharomyces cerevisiae is employed in wine and bread making, while numerous other yeast strains contribute to processes such as cheese crust development and maturation, as seen with Debaryomyces hansenii.

The researchers undertook this latest study with the goal of advancing the understanding of the potential impact of fungal microbiota on human health. In this specific investigation, the focus was on deliberately examining the fungi employed by food companies for the production of food items such as cheeses and 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.”

Mathias L. Richard Ph.D., Study Lead Author and Research Director, INRAE, Micalis Institute

Initially, the researchers carefully selected a diverse array of yeasts, predominantly employed in food production. These yeast strains were subsequently subjected to evaluation, either through basic interaction assays with cultured human cells or in a specialized animal model that simulates ulcerative colitis.

Within this assortment of strains frequently used in food production, the study revealed that certain strains exhibited a positive impact on the gut and the host, particularly in inflammatory conditions.

Among these, two yeast strains, namely Cyberlindnera jadinii and Kluyveromyces lactis, demonstrated potential beneficial effects in the context of inflammation, as observed in a mouse model of ulcerative colitis. The researchers then conducted several additional experiments in an effort to unravel the mechanisms underpinning these effects.

Regarding C. jadinii, the safeguarding effect appeared to be linked to alterations in the bacterial microbiota subsequent to the administration of C. jadinii to the mice. These modifications, in turn, influenced the susceptibility to gut inflammation, though the precise underlying mechanism remains undiscovered.

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.”

Mathias L. Richard Ph.D., Study Lead Author and Research Director, INRAE, Micalis Institute

The strains of C. jadinii and K. lactis hold promise as probiotic yeast strains for combatting gut inflammation. However, additional research is essential to elucidate the mechanisms through which these strains contribute to gut health.

Source:
Journal reference:

Hugot, C., et al. (2023) Cyberlindnera jadinii and Kluyveromyces lactis, two fungi used in food processes, have potential probiotic effects on gut inflammation. mSystems. doi.org/10.1128/msystems.00841-23.

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