Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 98, Issue 2, pp 563–577 | Cite as

Bifidobacteria: their impact on gut microbiota composition and their applications as probiotics in infants

  • Diana Di GioiaEmail author
  • Irene Aloisio
  • Giuseppe Mazzola
  • Bruno Biavati


This review is aimed at describing the most recent advances in the gut microbiota composition of newborns and infants with a particular emphasis on bifidobacteria. The newborn gut microbiota is quite unstable, whereas after weaning, it becomes more stable and gets closer to the typical adult microbiota. The newborn and infant gut microbiota composition is impaired in several enteric and non-enteric pathologies. The core of this review is the description of the most recent documented applications of bifidobacteria to newborns and infants for their prevention and treatment. Acute diarrhea is the most studied disease for which bifidobacteria are applied with great success, Bifidobacterium longum and Bifidobacterium breve being the most applied species. Moreover, the most recent updates in the use of bifidobacteria for the prevention and treatment of pathologies typical of newborns, such as necrotizing enterocolitis, colics, and streptococcal infections, are presented. In addition, a number of not strictly enteric pathologies have in recent years evidenced a strict correlation with an aberrant gut microbiota in infants, in particular showing a reduced level of bifidobacteria. These diseases represent new potential opportunities for probiotic applications. Among them, allergic diseases, celiac disease, obesity, and neurologic diseases are described in this review. The preliminary use of bifidobacteria in in vitro systems and animal models is summarized as well as preliminary in vivo studies. Only after validation of the results via human clinical trials will the potentiality of bifidobacteria in the prevention and cure of these pathologies be definitely assessed.


Bifidobacteria Gut microbiota Infants Newborns Probiotics Therapeutic microbiology 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diana Di Gioia
    • 1
    Email author
  • Irene Aloisio
    • 1
  • Giuseppe Mazzola
    • 1
  • Bruno Biavati
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Agricultural ScienceUniversity of BolognaBolognaItaly

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