FAQ: What is the difference between a Lactobacillus and a Bifidobacterium?

And why do we use especially those two bacteria in probiotics?   


Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are groups of bacteria often used in probiotic formulations. But what is the difference between these two? And for what reason are these specific bacteria often used in probiotic formulations?


Coline Gerritsen and Elske van Dijk, scientists at Winclove Probiotics, have sorted out these questions!







The difference between them is quite simple: 

Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus are two different bacterial genera. The term genus is used to describe a well-characterized group of organisms. As shown in the illustration, a genus is a taxonomic rank in a classification scheme used in biology and thus also for bacteria. It can be seen as a ladder: the more you go down on the ladder, the more specific information you get on the characteristics of the group.


Genus is positioned below the rank named “Family” and above “Species” on the classification ladder. Moreover, each genus has several species. Currently there are about 38 species of Bifidobacterium (e.g. Bifidobacterium bifidum) and over 128 known species of Lactobacillus  (e.g. Lactobacillus acidophilus). Together they constitute a part of the intestinal microbiota in humans. You may also have heard of other genera commonly found in the human intestine, such as for example: Bacteroidetes,  Clostridium,  Eubacterium, Veillonella.


In case of bacteria it means that when you know the species, you know its characteristics (e.g. how does it look like, what does it eat, what does it produce) in more detail compared to when you only know the genus.






Why are Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus popular in probiotics? 

And then the question why Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species are often used in probiotics. This has to do with two reasons:


1.      Because they have beneficial effects on human health

2.      Because they have a longtime safety record for human              use (GRAS status)


The Russian scientist Élie Metchnikoff (1908), the founding father of innate immunity, was the first one to describe the beneficial health promoting effects of bacteria (like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species). He claimed that people who consumed large amounts of lactic acid producing bacteria in the form of yogurt, lived longer and were more healthy.






"Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus differ from each other like cats and dogs".







Different like cats and dogs 

As explained above, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium  species belong to different genera. And although both genera are part of the intestinal microbiota and have beneficial effects on our health, they are also very different. 

Compare this with cats and dogs, they both live in our houses and we love them because they are our pets and they are both fluffy. However, it’s obvious that they are different animals. The dog guards your house and the cat eats the mice in your house.

So, it depends on what you are looking for: do you want your house guarded or do you want no mice in your house? Or both? Depending on your wishes you take a dog, a cat or both.






what is the differences between lactobacilli and bifido?

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