Aims: To characterize the facultative anaerobic intestinal microbiota of healthy rabbits, especially enterococci, for the selection of potential probiotic strains.
Methods and results: Phenotypic and molecular methods were used to identify enterococcal isolates. Results obtained indicated that enterococcal microbiota widely varied among individuals both in size and in composition. Antibacterial and haemolytic activities, and resistance to acid and bile salts were determined. A small group of strains produced bacteriocins active against listeriae and indigenous clostridia and therefore they were selected as potential probiotics. One such strain, 8G, was assayed for colonization capacity. Results obtained suggested that the fate of the introduced strain depended on the composition of the enterococcal indigenous microbiota.
Conclusions: Enterococcus faecalis and Ent. faecium are the predominant enterococcal species in the gut of rabbits. Other species of lactic acid bacteria were not recovered.
Significance and impact of the study: The enterococcal intestinal microbiota of healthy rabbits has been characterized in detail. Monitoring the fate of an introduced probiotic in vivo is required in order to evaluate potential probiotic strains.