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What’s the Difference Between Spore-forming and Vegetative Probiotics?

bacillus spore

What’s the difference? First, it’s helpful to understand the most common probiotic types. There are three genera of bacteria that comprise the majority of bacteria with recognized probiotic activity: Lactobacillus, Bifidobacteria and Bacillus.

Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria are Common Vegetative Bacteria

Their cells are not particularly resistant to high heat or desiccation and tend to be sensitive to the extremes of acid and alkaline conditions, as found in the stomach and small bowel. Studies have shown that most are quickly killed off in the harsh, acidic environment of the stomach and upper digestive tract. Because these bacteria are fragile, they require refrigeration to remain viable. Strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are supplied in their living, vegetative states. That is, they are living organisms that require very specific environments to remain viable. Often found in fermented dairy products, these typically cannot be used in products that are shelf-stable, frozen, heated, or subjected to extreme manufacturing processes.

Bacillus, by contrast, are hardy, spore-forming bacteria that act as vegetative bacteria when conditions are optimal for their growth but can also form dormant spores when conditions are detrimental to their viability. This spore can be equated to a plant seed—it is dormant and won’t grow until there is the right temperature, moisture and food source.

Research on specific Bacillus strains has shown they can withstand both heat and acidic conditions, and these spores are much more resistant to the extremes of pH, heat, cold and pressure than vegetative cells. This makes them a much better fit for fortification in everyday foods and beverages, such as products that may be hot, cold or frozen, shelf-stable, or subject to extreme manufacturing processes.

Understanding the difference between probiotic types is the first step in identifying a probiotic that can fit a product’s formulation and benefit needs.

Product manufacturers looking to formulate a shelf-stable, heat-resistant product should opt for spore-forming probiotics.

GanedenBC30® — The Versatile, Spore-forming Probiotic

GanedenBC30® (Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086) is a highly stable spore-former and can remain viable through processing, shelf life and the low pH of stomach acid as well as food processing conditions like heat, shear, HTST and HPP pasteurization.

This increased stability opens up new avenues of innovation, because it means these probiotics can be used not just in chilled dairy products but also in applications such as nondairy beverages, frozen foods, cookies, cereals, baked goods and even hot drinks.


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