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Investigation of Microplastics in Digestion System: Effect on Surface Microstructures and Probiotics

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There are increasingly attentions on the pollution from microplastics, especially the impact on human health. This work focuses on one hand the effect of digestion system on the surface microstructures of microplastics from the most popular sources such as polypropylene, polyethylene, polyethylene terephthalate, polystyrene and polyvinyl chloride. On the other hand, how these microplastic affect probiotics in digestion system was also investigated to evaluate their toxicity on health. All the samples were treated by in vitro simulating digestion consisting of three phases: oral, gastric and intestinal. There were no physical differences observed by both Scanning Electronic Microscopy and Atomic Force Microscopy, and no significant chemical changes detected by both Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy after digestion treatment. The effect of these microplastics on tested strains were investigated by in vitro culture method and results showed that polystyrene microplastics could inhibit the growth of the Lactobacillus significantly. The results indicated that the digestion system could not decompose microplastics, even on the surfaces, since plastics are inert due to their low chemical reactivity, but the microplastics might lead to imbalance of intestinal microbiota.

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The work was supported by the International Cooperation Project of Guangzhou Development Zone (2018GH18), and 111 Project (B17018), and National Undergraduate Training Program for Innovation and Entrepreneurship of South China University of China. We would like to acknowledge support from the State Key Laboratory of Pulp and Paper Engineering (202107) and engineer Dr Xin Wang from Bruker (Beijing) Scientific Technology Co. Ltd.


Natural Science Foundation of Jilin Province (Grant No. 22178124).

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Correspondence to Long Yu.

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Chen, H., Chen, H., Nan, S. et al. Investigation of Microplastics in Digestion System: Effect on Surface Microstructures and Probiotics. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 109, 882–892 (2022).

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