Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 101, Issue 4, pp 1419–1425 | Cite as

Novel encapsulation improves recovery of probiotic strains in fecal samples of human volunteers

  • Volker Mai
  • Sheldon Waugh
  • Doratha Byrd
  • Damion Simpson
  • Maria Ukhanova
Biotechnological products and process engineering


Probiotic supplements can contribute to maintaining health and ameliorating various disease symptoms. Probiotics can be delivered in many forms with crucial differences in their survival during gastrointestinal (GI) passage. Previously, a novel encapsulation, Probiotic Pearls™ Acidophilus, Integrative Therapeutics, LLC, USA (Pearls), was shown to increase survival in vitro after exposure to gastric conditions. Here, we compare fecal recovery in human volunteers consuming Pearls or a conventional hard-shelled gelatin capsule. We performed a randomized double-blinded, two-armed trial, with six healthy subjects in each 12-day study arm. In fecal samples collected at baseline, twice during the intervention period, and after washout, we compared colony counts between the two encapsulation methods. The identity of the colonies was confirmed by colony morphology, strain-specific PCR, and 16S rRNA gene sequencing. We further performed a comprehensive 16S rRNA gene sequencing-based analysis to identify differential effects on overall microbiota composition. We detected an average log increase in bifidobacteria of 0.152 cfu/g with gelatin and 0.651 cfu/g with Pearls capsules (p > 0.05). Total lactobacilli counts increased in both groups with no difference between the groups. However, the supplemented Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM decreased to baseline levels within 7 days after end of supplementation with gelatin capsules while 3.11 log cfu/g higher counts compared to baseline (p = 0.05) remained for Pearls. Targeted qPCR largely confirmed the trends observed by viable plate counts. Protecting the probiotic strains by Pearls encapsulation results in higher recovery rates of the supplemented lactobacilli and bifidobacteria in fecal samples and increased persistence, suggesting an improved survival and viability that might increase efficacy towards achieving desired health benefits.


Pearls Probiotic Fecal recovery Viability 



We would like to thank the volunteers that participated in the study. The study was funded by Schwabe NA.

Compliance with ethical standards


This study was funded by Schwabe NA.

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study under a protocol approved by UF IRB01.

Supplementary material

253_2016_7915_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (132 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 132 kb)
253_2016_7915_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (755 kb)
ESM 2 (XLSX 755 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Epidemiology, Emerging Pathogens Institute, PHHP/COMUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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