UC Davis Scientific Team Strengthens Case for Bifidobacterium in the Fight Against Antibiotic Resistance

New Study, Co-authored by Evolve BioSystems Co-Founder, Shows Urgency of Restoring Disappearing Bacterium to Natural Levels

DAVIS, Calif., Oct. 10, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- A new study published in mSphere found that children with higher levels of the beneficial bacteria, Bifidobacterium, in their gut microbiome had reduced abundance and lower frequency of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) genes. The study was led by Dr. David Mills, PhD, and Diana Taft, PhD , and was a collaboration between the University of California, Davis and icddr,b, (the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh). Dr. Mills is a Professor in the Departments of Viticulture & Enology and Food Science & Technology at UC Davis and an Evolve BioSystems co-founder. AMR is the ability of a microorganism to withstand an antibiotic or other antimicrobial, rendering standard treatments ineffective and raising the risk, persistence and spread of infections. The findings of the study suggest that increasing the abundance of Bifidobacteriumin the infant gut is both a simple and novel approach to reducing AMR-related genes.

Facing down a global health crisis
AMR contributes to more than 23,000 deaths and 2 million illnesses in the U.S. annually, and antibiotic resistance in particular is cited by the World Health Organization (WHO) as "one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today." Infants may be particularly susceptible, as the genes responsible for AMR can appear early in life when a baby's immune system is still in development. "Treating children with antibiotics like penicillin during their early years may increase AMR," according to Dr. Mills. The WHO also notes that while antibiotic resistance occurs naturally, misuse of antibiotics is accelerating the process. However, the study suggests that high levels of Bifidobacterium can prevent colonization by potential AMR-related bacteria, thus protecting the infant intestine.

Mounting evidence supports the benefits of Bifidobacterium, but its levels are decreasing
"This study is revelatory on its own merits, but it's also an important link in a chain of recent discoveries that have shed light on the importance of Bifidobacterium in infants," said 
Dr. David Kyle, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer, Evolve BioSystems. "Along with findings which show that infants supplemented with a specific strain of Bifidobacterium, B. infantis EVC001, showed a significant reduction in virulence factor genes and colonic mucin degradation, a clearer picture of its importance to infant—and possibly lifelong health—is emerging. We're gaining insight at a rapid pace, and the implications are huge."

Mills and Kyle also note, however, that while evidence mounts regarding the benefits of Bifidobacterium, research shows that its levels have been declining in the U.S. and other developed countries over the past 100 years as a possible unintended consequence of modern medical practices like antibiotics, lack of breastfeeding and C-sections. "The results from this study strongly support the idea that infants who acquire Bifidobacterium early in life are provided some level of natural protection against AMR," said Mills.

David Mills is a Peter J. Shields Endowed Chair in the Departments of Food Science & Technology at the University of California at Davis, and co-founder of Evolve BioSystems, makers of Evivo® baby probiotic. In the last 20 years Dr. Mills has published more than 180 papers, including seminal work on probiotic genomics.

About Evolve BioSystems
Evolve BioSystems, Inc. is a privately-held microbiome company dedicated to developing the next generation of products to establish, restore, and maintain a healthy gut microbiome. Evolve recently completed a $40M Series C round of funding co-led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Horizons Ventures, the venture division of the Li Ka Shing Foundation. Evolve is a spin-out from the Foods for Health Institute (FFHI) at the University of California, Davis and builds on more than a decade of research into understanding the unique partnership of the infant gut microbiome and breast milk components. Having led to the development and commercial launch of products to resolve newborn gut dysbiosis, including Evivo® for infants, Evolve's discovery platform is now being applied to solving gut dysbiosis throughout the human life cycle as well. In addition to the landmark proof-of-concept trial, Evolve is undertaking further clinical studies to build out its suite of microbiome-based solutions.

Tracy Shafizadeh