Bifidobacterium infantis is a subspecies of the Bifidobacterium longum species Bifidobacterium longum is one of the most commonly found species in human faeces and is subdivided into 3 different biotypes – longum, infantis and suis
The B. longum species is most specifically suited to the intestinal environment of breast-fed infants, because it appears to thrive best by consuming a prebiotic known as human milk oligosaccharides (HMO’s), so named because they are unique to human breast milk and not found in any other sources. A positive synergy has evolved between B. infantis and HMOs, indicating how evolution has naturally created an environment which temporarily protects a baby’s gut environment. It also suggested that this particular strain can be very beneficial for babies with a disrupted microbiome, and that a probiotic supplement containing this strain can benefit formula fed infants, giving them what they may naturally lack, thereby protecting their microbiome.
Interestingly, in babies who are breastfed, Bifidobacterium make up around 90% of their gastrointestinal bacteria. This number appears to be lower in infants who are bottle-fed. This lower number of Bifidobacterium in formula-fed babies might explain the higher incidence of allergies found in the same group. In vitro studies have also found that Bifidobacterium infantis displays anti-inflammatory activity in premature intestinal cells, as well as decreasing intestinal permeability. A healthy B. infantis colonisation has also been associated with an increased response to vaccines.
BibliographyLee Y. and Salminen S., (2009), ‘Handbook of Probiotic and Prebiotics’. 2nd edition, Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.
Underwood, M.A. et al., (2015), ‘Bifidobacterium longum subspecies infantis: champion colonizer of the infant gut’. Pediatric Research, 77(0):229–235.