Probiotics researcher says he's found a better delivery polymer

While the jury is still out on probiotics--the introduction of live organisms into the gut--research presented at the Society for General Microbiology's Autumn Conference at the University of York claims that a delivery vehicle to shuttle bacteria safely through the stomach into the intestines would boost the industry. The heavily acidic contents of the stomach make it difficult for microorganisms to navigate their way to the gut. So, scientists from the University of Wolverhampton have developed a "special type of biopolymer that protects probiotic bacteria in the stomach and delivers them safely to the intestines where they can get to work."

While the researchers do not reveal what, exactly, comprises this "novel biopolymer," they say in a release that it is "completely biodegradable and is able to remain intact in the stomach and continue to the intestine." Bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria strains, which they called "beneficial bacteria," survived in simulated gastric juices for for up to four hours after being coated with this polymer.

"There is an ongoing debate about the usefulness of probiotics," Aditya Bhat, who carried out the research, said in a release. "Some data showing positive effects is irreproducible and one of the reasons for this could be insufficient numbers of live bacteria reaching the intestine. A product that delivers a consistent number of bacteria to the intestine is therefore essential."

- read the release from the Society for General Microbiology