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What Is Bifidobacterium Infantis?

By Adam Cloe Ph.D./M.D.

Bifidobacterium infantis is a member of the bifidobacteria family, a strain of bacteria that is normally found in the human intestines. Because these bacteria do not normally cause infections, they can be used in probiotic supplements, which can aid in intestinal health and help prevent infections. Although generally safe, patients should use these bacteria with care because there is the risk of the bacteria causing harm to the body.

Bifidobacteria Identification

Bifidobacerium is a rod-shaped anaerobic bacteria, according to Kenyon University, which means that it cannot grow in the presence of oxygen. It is normally found in the intestines and is able to break down sugars into lactic acid. This bacteria is also able to use some "indigestible" plant compounds, including some proteins and cellulose, for fuel. Its ability to use many different compounds as food allows it to thrive in the digestive tract and compete with potentially harmful bacteria for space and resources in the gut.

Bifidobacteria and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Bifidobacterium infantis is sometimes used as a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome. A 2006 article in the "American Journal of Gastroenterology" reported the effects of these bacteria on the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Taking these bacteria relieved gas, bowel dysfunction, problems with incomplete bowel movements and straining in patients with irritable bowel syndrome without causing any significant side effects.

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Other Uses

Bifidobacterium infantis can also be used to treat other health conditions. For example, it can be combined with another probiotic, Lactobacillus acidophilus, to prevent a condition known as necrotizing entercolitis, according to Medline Plus. It may also be useful for treating traveler's diarrhea and ulcerative colitis and can reduce symptoms of lung infections in children. There is also some evidence that taking these bacteria after a course of antibiotics can help prevent the diarrhea that taking antibiotics commonly causes.

Dosage and Safety

Depending on the condition, a standard dose of probiotic Bifidobacteria is between 1 and 5 billion live organisms per day. Taking supplements of these bacteria can cause bloating and gas in some patients. Bifidobacteria and other probiotics should not be used by people with impaired immune systems, such as patients with HIV/AIDS or who are taking medications that weaken the immune system. Probiotics can cause dangerous infections in people with compromised immune systems, including sepsis, a potentially life-threatening condition.

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