Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 102, Issue 5, pp 2091–2099 | Cite as

Impact of gut-associated bifidobacteria and their phages on health: two sides of the same coin?



Bifidobacteria are among the first microbial colonisers of the human infant gut post-partum. Their early appearance and dominance in the human infant gut and the reported health-promoting or probiotic status of several bifidobacterial strains has culminated in intensive research efforts that focus on their activities as part of the gut microbiota and the concomitant implications for human health. In this mini-review, we evaluate current knowledge on the genomics of this diverse bacterial genus, and on the genetic and functional adaptations that have underpinned the success of bifidobacteria in colonising the infant gut. The growing interest in functional genomics of bifidobacteria has also created interest in the interactions of bifidobacteria and their (bacterio)phages. While virulent phages of bifidobacteria have yet to be isolated, the incidence of integrated (pro)phages in bifidobacterial genomes are widely reported and this mini-review considers the role of these so-called bifidoprophages in modulating bifidobacterial populations in the human gastrointestinal tract and the implications for existing and future development of probiotic therapies.


Microbiota Probiotic Prebiotic Phageome Phage-host interactions Metagenomics 



JM is in receipt of a Starting Investigator Research Grant (SIRG) (Ref. No. 15/SIRG/3430) funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI). DvS is a member of APC Microbiome Ireland, a research centre funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), through the Irish Government’s National Development Plan (Grant number SFI/12/RC/2273). This work was funded by the EU Joint Programming Initiative—A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life (JPI HDHL, and MIUR to MV. JM, DVS and MV are supported by a Grand Challenges Exploration grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (Ref. No. OPP1150567).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest.

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of MicrobiologyNational University of IrelandCorkIreland
  2. 2.APC Microbiome IrelandNational University of IrelandCorkIreland
  3. 3.Laboratory of Probiogenomics, Department of Chemical Sciences, Life Sciences and Environmental SustainabilityUniversity of ParmaParmaItaly
  4. 4.Microbiome Research HubUniversity of ParmaParmaItaly

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