Fungi Used in Food Production Could Lead to New Probiotics

Many fungus strains have been used and selected by the food industry for their capacities to ferment, produce flavors or produce heterologous molecules. According to a new study, 2 fungi used to produce food products have potential probiotic effects on gut inflammation. 

To date, very little is known about the diversity of foodborne yeasts and their potential effect on gut microbiota and gut health. Yeasts are microscopic fungi consisting of solitary cells that reproduce by budding. Some have been used for hundreds of years, like Saccharomyces cerevisiae for wine and bread production, or many others for cheese crust production or ripening, like Debaryomyces hansenii.

The researchers conducted the new study because they are working to further knowledge of the potential effect of the fungal microbiota on human health. In this particular study, the idea was to target specifically the fungi that are used by food companies to produce food products (cheeses, charcuterie). “Since our interest is more focused on the role of fungi in gut health and on the development of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), we monitored the effect of these fungi on adapted in vitro and in vivo models,” Richard said.

The researchers first selected yeasts that were intensively used in food production and represented a wide range of different yeasts species and then tested them either in simple interaction tests with cultured human cells or in a specific animal model mimicking ulcerative colitis.

They found that in the collection of strains used for food production, some strains can have a beneficial effect on the gut and the host in an inflammatory context. They identified 2 strains of yeasts, Cyberlindnera jadinii and Kluyveromyces lactis, that had potential beneficial effects on inflammatory settings in a mouse model of ulcerative colitis. Several additional experiments were performed in an attempt to decipher the mechanism behind these effects. In the case of C. jadinii, the protection seemed to be driven by the modification of the bacterial microbiota after the administration of C. jadinii to the mice, which in turn modified the sensitivity to gut inflammation through a still unknown mechanism.

“These 2 strains have never been specifically described with such beneficial effects, so even if it needs to be studied further, and particularly to see how they are efficient in humans, it is a promising discovery,” Richard said.


Cindy Hugot, Maxime Poirier, Madeleine Spatz, Gregory Da Costa, Chloé Michaudel, Alexia Lapiere, Camille Danne, Valérie Martin, Philippe Langella, Harry Sokol, Marie-Laure Michel, Patrick Boyaval, Mathias L. Richard. Cyberlindnera jadinii and Kluyveromyces lactis , two fungi used in food processes, have potential probiotic effects on gut inflammation. mSystems, 2023; DOI: 10.1128/msystems.00841-23

American Society for Microbiology. “Fungi used in food production could lead to new probiotics.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 October 2023. <>.

Materials provided by American Society for Microbiology. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Images from:

Photo by Mali Maeder