The bacterium, a member of the acidophilus group of intestinal lactobacilli that has been extensively studied for their probiotic activities, is used in Nestlé's LC1 products and has been studied for more than 10 years by the company for its health effects. The Nestlé Research Centre has previously sequenced the genome of its bifido bacterium.
The findings will promote understanding of the mechanism of the La1 bacteria, thought to promote gut health and influence the immune system.
The reasearch could also influence the applications for probiotics, allowing Nestlé to expand into non-dairy foods, Europe's largest dairy producer said.
The latest research into how probiotic bacteria work on health suggests that they do not need to be live to have an action on immunity. Rather the bacteria contain immune system-stimulating DNA, which makes them just as effective when inactivated as when consumed as live microorganisms in dairy products, according to researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, Israel.
The European probiotics market is forecast to more than triple in value from €34.6 million currently to €118.5 million in 2010, according to recent statistics from Frost & Sullivan. But it is held back in the functional foods area by limited areas of application, namely in dairy foods.
The new research is published in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.