Bifidobacterium longum

Bifidobacterium longum
My name is Bifidobacterium longum and I would describe myself as an anaerobic, grampositive, irregular or branched rod-shaped bacterium that enjoys the confines of humans and most
animals and insects. Experts have named me one of the most important inhabitants of the human
gastrointestinal tract because I perform a number of important functions. I ensure the digestive
system runs smoothly, block the growth of dangerous bacteria, and support the immune system, so it
is safe to say that humans could not live without me. If that fails to impress, I am also the dominant
form of bacteria found in humans and my now fully sequenced genome will help scientists better
understand my contributions to human health.
So how do I do what I do so well? I ferment sugars into lactic acid, a chemical byproduct of
energy production in body cells. As humans have realized the health benefits of lactic acid bacteria,
also known as probiotics, they have incorporated them into their regular diets. Doctors also prescribe
me to patients who take antibiotics, have bacterial, viral or fungal infections, or suffer from a number
of digestive problems. Dairy products and vegetables contain lactic acid bacteria and if you prefer,
these microbes are also available in powder, liquid extract, or tablet form.
Studies have shown that I am a multi-talented microbe capable of preventing diarrhea in
antibiotic treated patients, reducing cholesterol, easing symptoms of lactose intolerance, energizing
the immune system and even combating cancer. You heard right— studies conducted by Japanese
researchers revealed that I could serve as a gene delivery vector for cancer therapy. I just get better
and better, and scientists seem to agree since they have identified me as a leading type of probiotic
Unfortunately, I cannot take all the credit for my amazing feats. I have to admit that even
outstanding microbes like me need a little assistance. There are numerous, specialized proteins that
help me relate to the human host and wage the fight against harmful bacteria; in addition, without
Bifidobacterium longum
certain genes, I would be unable to inhabit my environments, including dairy products, vegetables
and the human gastrointestinal tract. However, my top status demands that I work hard, so I am
among the first to appear in the digestive tracts of newborns and by the time they are breast-fed
infants, I dominate the scene. It is important that I live up to my reputation as a leader among good
microbes, so you can expect to hear my name for years to come as scientists continue to uncover my
impressive and extensive capabilities.