The continuing expansion of interest in probiotic bacteria has led to an increase in manufactured Functional Foods and medicines containing these bacteria. Given the intestinal origin of these microorganisms, the challenges these sensitive bacteria face in order to be in a highly viable state throughout processing, storage and gastrointestinal transit to the site of action in the human gut are enormous. These bacteria encounter stresses including temperature, acid, bile, exposure and osmotic and oxidative stress in both product matrices and during gastrointestinal transit. However, like all bacteria, probiotic bacteria retain a broad arsenal of molecular mechanisms to combat the often lethal environmental stresses encountered during processing and following ingestion. A comprehensive appreciation of these mechanisms should inevitably lead to the design and manufacture of probiotic cultures, which retain greater viability through to the target site in the intestine. This review attempts to catalogue the cellular processes available to probiotic bacteria to facilitate survival in stressful conditions, and to speculate on how manipulation of these cellular systems can lead to production of designer strains with enhanced viability in food systems and efficacy following ingestion.
Keywords: Probiotic, lactobacilli, heat shock protein, stress, viability
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