Bifidobacteria and Their Health-Promoting Effects

Microbiol Spectr. 2017 Jun;5(3). doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.BAD-0010-2016.


Bifidobacteria are members of the intestinal microbiota of mammals and other animals, and some strains are able to exert health-promoting effects. The genus Bifidobacterium belongs to the Actinobacteria phylum. Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, and Actinobacteria constitute the most abundant phyla in the human intestinal microbiota, Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes being predominant in adults, and Actinobacteria in breast-fed infants, where bifidobacteria can reach levels higher than 90% of the total bacterial population. They are among the first microbial colonizers of the intestines of newborns, and play key roles in the development of their physiology, including maturation of the immune system and use of dietary components. Indeed, some nutrients, such as human milk oligosaccharides, are important drivers of bifidobacterial development. Some Bifidobacterium strains are considered probiotic microorganisms because of their beneficial effects, and they have been included as bioactive ingredients in functional foods, mainly dairy products, as well as in food supplements and pharma products, alone, or together with, other microbes or microbial substrates. Well-documented scientific evidence of their activities is currently available for bifidobacteria-containing preparations in some intestinal and extraintestinal pathologies. In this review, we focus on the role of bifidobacteria as members of the human intestinal microbiota and their use as probiotics in the prevention and treatment of disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bifidobacterium / classification*
  • Bifidobacterium / immunology
  • Bifidobacterium / physiology*
  • Clostridioides difficile / pathogenicity
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / microbiology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / therapy
  • Dairy Products / microbiology
  • Diarrhea / microbiology
  • Diarrhea / therapy
  • Drug Therapy
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing / microbiology
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing / therapy
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / microbiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / therapy
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology
  • Helicobacter Infections / therapy
  • Helicobacter pylori / pathogenicity
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / microbiology
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / therapy
  • Intestines / microbiology*
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / microbiology
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / therapy
  • Microbial Interactions
  • Probiotics / therapeutic use


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents