Products containing probiotic bacteria are gaining popularity, increasing the importance of their accurate speciation. Unfortunately, studies have suggested that improper labeling of probiotic species is common in commercial products. Species identification of a bank of commercial probiotic strains was attempted using partial 16S rDNA sequencing, carbohydrate fermentation analysis, and cellular fatty acid methyl ester analysis. Results from partial 16S rDNA sequencing indicated discrepancies between species designations for 26 out of 58 strains tested, including two ATCC Lactobacillus strains. When considering only the commercial strains obtained directly from the manufacturers, 14 of 29 strains carried species designations different from those obtained by partial 16S rDNA sequencing. Strains from six commercial products were species not listed on the label. The discrepancies mainly occurred in Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus casei groups. Carbohydrate fermentation analysis was not sensitive enough to identify species within the L. acidophilus group. Fatty acid methyl ester analysis was found to be variable and inaccurate and is not recommended to identify probiotic lactobacilli.
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