The aim of the present study was to assess the survival of free and immobilized Lactobacillus casei ATCC 393 on apple pieces, contained in probiotic-fermented milk, after gastrointestinal (GI) transit and to investigate the potential regulation of intestinal microbial flora in a rat model. In in vitro GI stress tolerance tests, immobilized L. casei ATCC 393 exhibited significantly higher survival rates compared to free cells. At a second stage, probiotic-fermented milk produced by either free or immobilized cells was administered orally at a single dose or daily for 9 days in Wistar rats. By 12 h after single-dose administration, both free and immobilized cells were detected by microbiological and molecular analysis at levels ≧6 logCFU/g of feces. Moreover, daily administration led to significant reduction of staphylococci, enterobacteria, coliforms and streptococci counts. In conclusion, L. casei ATCC 393 contained in fermented milk survived GI transit and modulated intestinal microbiota.

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