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While Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria are the bacterial genera most commonly associated with probiotic activity, Escherichia, Enterococcus, and Saccharomyces also have been shown to be probiotic. Recently, Escherichia coli strain BU-230-98 entered this category following a patent application from U.S.-based Bio Balance Corp. Commercial interests develop and guard their microbiological strains zealously.
That comprehensive health entails a multispecies probiotic approach is well established, and companies are racing to file composition patents for greater competitive insulation than method-of-use patents. Particularly noteworthy is Korean ProBionic Corp's. patent filing for Probio-16, with anti-rotavirus and anti-diarrhoeal activities.
Innovation in processing
Probiotics have been largely proven for five key conditions , gastrointestinal well-being and diarrhea prevention, ulcers, immunity, women's urogenital health and post-surgical care. Mounting scientific research demonstrating the clinical efficacy of probiotics has prompted significant innovation in the development of new technologies to ensure the products have high viability and that high numbers reach the intended target.
The Montreal-based Institut Rosell-Lallemand has made remarkable advances in microencapsulation technology. Its technique serves to buffer the microorganisms from extreme conditions typical of food processing and prevent resulting decreases in viability in yogurts, chocolates, drink powders and even extruded food products. One patent application incorporates vegetable oil, fish oil and tocopherol to protect probiotics from heat and acids.
Chr. Hansen has developed an enteric coating using a proprietary polysaccharide matrix that allows the organism to travel safely through the stomach, bypass the stomach acids and delay hydration until they reach the alkaline pH of the colon. The technology may be customized to protect the organisms from stomach acidity and bile salts or, conversely, to take advantage of acidity and help deliver the organisms rapidly to the stomach. Advances by Canacure in Montreal and Universal Preservation Technologies Inc. in California, will soon make it possible to preserve, protect and allow probiotics to be directed to specific sites in the body for pronounced benefits.
The retail sector
The U.S. Patent Office reported an exponential number of application filings in 2002, with Nestle and Nestec topping the list with applications for probiotics in cereals, dehydrated foods, frozen desserts -- even cosmetics.
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