Background & aims: Some intestinal flora are known to synthesize folate. The aim of this study was to determine whether folate synthesized by small intestinal flora is assimilated by the human host.
Methods: Subjects with atrophic gastritis and healthy volunteers were studied before and after omeprazole administration. A double-lumen perfusion tube was placed in the duodenum. 3H-labeled P-aminobenzoic acid, a precursor substrate for bacterial folate synthesis, was perfused. Downstream intestinal aspirates and a 48-hour urine collection were obtained.
Results: Atrophic gastritis and omeprazole administration were associated with increases in duodenal pH and in small intestinal flora. Bacterially synthesized folates were isolated from the intestinal aspirates. Tritiated 5-methyltetrahydrofolate, a major metabolite of folate, was isolated from the urine of omeprazole-treated subjects in greater quantities than from drug-free subjects (P<0.01); the quantity of tritiated 5-methyltetrahydrofolate in the urine of the subjects with atrophic gastritis was similarly elevated.
Conclusions: (1) Mild bacterial overgrowth caused by atrophic gastritis and administration of omeprazole are associated with de novo folate synthesis in the lumen of the small intestine; (2) the human host absorbs and uses some of these folates; and (3) the contribution to folate nutriture from this source remains unclear.