August 09, 2022 8 min read
In the world of the gut microbiome, you can be introduced to numbers with so many zeros that your mind has trouble comprehending them. Often, this is coupled with such fantastic names that bounce around this world of microorganisms, names like Faecalibacterium prausnitzii or Haemophilus parainfluenzae, to name just two, both of which the mind and tongue in unison can struggle to pronounce in the correct manner. You could find yourself having several attempts before settling on something agreeable, even if wrong.
In these articles we have been investigating each of the 15 good gut bacteria identified in the PREDICT 1 study (An independent study published in Nature, not associated with Layer Origin). Each of these are known as probiotic – beneficial bacteria. Derived from Greek, probiotic means ‘for life,’ the flip side of which is antibiotic, ‘against life.’ These 15 probiotic strains can bring us many health promoting properties. As we have reviewed each one, the ‘for life’ attributes have become apparent. However, it has also been seen that it is important that they exist and thrive in the right location, environment, and in the right balance. In this article, the chosen ‘good’ gut microbe is Prevotella copri.
At first glance at the available research this bacterium could well be seen as an anomaly amongst the 15 probiotics, as some of the research results show some ‘potentially alarming’ negative connotations to the ‘for life’ label that probiotic indicates. But once again is it all just a matter of balance?
To find out, join us as we once again immerse ourselves into this fantastic world and uncover, if and what, are the potential friend and foe attributes this microbe has to offer.
Discovered in 2007, Prevotella copri is a bacterium found in the human gut. It is said to be a ‘next-generation’ (recently isolated) bacterium[i].
The strain is rod shaped, gram-negative (more resistant to antibodies), and anaerobic (can survive without oxygen). Prevotella copri is a bacterium that is a member of the Bacteroidetes phylum[ii].
Prevotella has around 40 species but Prevotella copri is the most abundant. In recent studies Prevotella copri was found to become active in response to dietary fibre intake[iii]. The PREDICT programme identified P. copri in approximately 33% of their study’s participants[iv]
A healthy body can be determined by the presence of certain, distinct bacterial communities at specific body sites, these include the skin, lung, gastrointestinal, urogenital, oral, and nasal passages. Interestingly, Prevotella species have been found to colonise to a prevalent degree at mucosal sites (mucus producing), like those previously mentionedii.
According to the largest study of nutrition and gut bacteria in the world, PREDICT, P. copri is one of the 15 ‘good’ gut microbes identified in the human gut. These are the microbes that are associated with positive indicators of health. In other words, they help to keep you and your body healthy.
In the wider research world, P. copri is somewhat controversial. While some studies have shown that the strain is associated with good health outcomes, like good blood sugar control, others have noted that it could aggravate listeria infections and has been associated with inflammatory diseases.
The PREDICT study found P. copri may be linked to lower levels of insulin secretion and better insulin sensitivity. Let’s take a look at what some of the research has to say about Prevotella copri.
The human gut is comprised of trillions of microbial cells, including archaea, bacteria, viruses, and fungi. If we focus on bacteria, there are hundreds of different genera. In fact, the Firmicutes phylum alone is composed of more than 200 different genera, including Bacillus and Lactobacillus.
Prevotella is a species that has been identified in the human gut and beyond and has been linked to diets that are rich in plant-based foods. Prevotella copri is often found in non-western gut microbiomes, particularly those that consume increased levels of fibre, such as rural communities. Prevotella strains are considered to be commensal and are rarely involved in infections. However, some studies have pointed towards some specific strains having pathobiontic properties[v].
The consumption of dietary fibre has long been promoted for its health benefits, particularly it’s positive effects on blood sugar control. Most of these benefits originate from the beneficial microbes residing in your gut, thanks to their ability to transform fibre into metabolites like short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), such as acetate, butyrate and propionate.
However, there’s another important metabolite that’s mentioned very little, and that’s succinate. And guess which bacteria strain is an avid producer? You guessed it, P. copri. In a study conducted in 2016 and published in Cell Metabolism, researchers examined the association between succinate and host metabolism.
The study was conducted in mouse models who were fed a fibre-rich diet. The results showed that the gut microbiota produce high levels of succinate in response to consuming lots of dietary fibre, particularly fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS).
The study showed that in mice who could convert succinate into glucose in the intestine, a process called intestinal gluconeogenesis (IGN), improved glucose metabolism was identified. However, this did not occur in mice who were unable to induce IGN. Interestingly, although the study could draw no definite conclusions, probiotic supplementation with succinate producers like P. copri does increase the production of succinate in the gut. The synthesis of succinate is associated with inhibiting glucose production in the liver. This may prove to be important in glucose homeostasis.
Overall, the study found that this microbial metabolite is linked to improved blood glucose levels and better body weight. Ultimately, unveiling P. copri as a potential probiotic strain due to its ability to produce succinate in response to fibre, leading to improved glycaemic control, is a potential takeaway from this research[vi].
Further studies have also shown P. copri to be a promising next generation probiotic candidate for the prevention and treatment of metabolic conditions, including type 2 diabetes and obesity. A 2021 study assessed the safety of administering live P. copri to mice through a 29 day oral toxicity study.
The results showed that administering live and pasteurised P. copri to mice did not induce any major adverse effects on growth, vital organs, cellular blood components, or serum biochemical parameters. Therefore, because P.copri could be considered safe in mice, it shows it may have a promising future. However, studies in humans will need to be conducted to determine if this bacterial species could be a therapeutic intervention for metabolic disease[vii].
A quick Google search will probably lead you to an array of articles associating Prevotella copri to the autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis, which almost contradicts what we’ve already mentioned. However, on closer inspection, rather than a specific bacterial species being responsible for the onset of this disease, it’s likely that intestinal dysbiosis plays a key role.
Gut dysbiosis is a term used to describe an imbalance in the gut microbiota that’s usually associated with a negative health outcome[viii]. In a study published in the BMJ in 2019, researchers found that an enrichment of Prevotella species in the gut of individuals in the pre-clinical stages of rheumatoid arthritis, showed that gut dysbiosis can be a contributory factor in the onset of the disease[ix].
Another study by Pianta et al (2018), demonstrated that patients with new-onset untreated rheumatoid arthritis had an increased abundance of P. copri and a reduction in Bacteroides compared to healthy individuals. Therefore, the study helped to highlight that gut microbiome composition could be important in the development of this debilitating disease[x].
Interestingly, another study by Marietta et al (2016) found that a different strain of Prevotella, P. histicola, actually has a positive effect on rheumatoid arthritis and can suppress arthritis[xi].
P. copri has also been implicated in other illnesses, too. For example, a 2019 study found that the presence of this bacterium can exacerbate listeria infections[xii]. Listeriosis is an infection caused by a bacteria called Listeria and is usually caught by eating contaminated food.
Overall, the current scientific research into P. copri shows that it is a complex, commensal resident of the human gut microbiome. It shows that this bacterium does play an essential role when in insulin sensitivity.
Its presence is associated with diets rich in plant-based foods, and points towards benefits associated with glucose metabolism. However, other studies have shown that an overabundance or dysbiosis can contribute to inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
P. copri may be in the spotlight when it comes to inflammatory diseases but the good health giving properties must also be given the chance to shine. How about succinate? P. copri is an avid producer of this very important product.
It may mean that more research is needed, but from the studies featured in this article, it can be summarised that, as always, the key to good gut health is balance.
Don’t forget a good way to support the good bugs in your gut is to supplement your diet with prebiotics. Why not browse our range of prebiotic human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs)?
Written by: Leanne Edermaniger, M.Sc. Leanne is a professional science writer who specializes in human health and enjoys writing about all things related to the gut microbiome.
[i] De Filippis F, Pasolli E, Tett A, Tarallo S, Naccarati A, De Angelis M, Neviani E, Cocolin L, Gobbetti M, Segata N, Ercolini D. Distinct Genetic and Functional Traits of Human Intestinal Prevotella copri Strains Are Associated with Different Habitual Diets. Cell Host Microbe. 2019 Mar 13;25(3):444-453.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2019.01.004. Epub 2019 Feb 21. PMID: 30799264.
[ii] Larsen JM. The immune response to Prevotella bacteria in chronic inflammatory disease. Immunology. 2017 Aug;151(4):363-374. doi: 10.1111/imm.12760. Epub 2017 Jun 20. PMID: 28542929; PMCID: PMC5506432.
[iii] Huang F, Sardari RRR, Jasilionis A, Böök O, Öste R, Rascón A, Heyman-Lindén L, Holst O, Karlsson EN. Cultivation of the gut bacterium Prevotella copri DSM 18205T using glucose and xylose as carbon sources. Microbiologyopen. 2021 Jun;10(3):e1213. doi: 10.1002/mbo3.1213. PMID: 34180602; PMCID: PMC8236902.
[iv] What Is Prevotella copri? [Internet]. Joinzoe.com. 2022 [cited 2022 Jul 20]. Available from: https://joinzoe.com/learn/what-is-prevotella-copri
[v] 6. Precup G, Vodnar D. Gut Prevotella as a possible biomarker of diet and its eubiotic versus dysbiotic roles: a comprehensive literature review. British Journal of Nutrition. 2019;122(2):131-140.
[vi] 5. De Vadder F, Kovatcheva-Datchary P, Zitoun C, Duchampt A, Bäckhed F, Mithieux G. Microbiota-Produced Succinate Improves Glucose Homeostasis via Intestinal Gluconeogenesis. Cell Metabolism. 2016;24(1):151-157.
[vii] Verbrugghe P, Brynjólfsson J, Jing X, Björck I, Hållenius F, Nilsson A. Evaluation of hypoglycemic effect, safety and immunomodulation of Prevotella copri in mice. Sci Rep. 2021 Oct 28;11(1):21279. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-96161-6. PMID: 34711895; PMCID: PMC8553810.
[viii] Martinez J, Kahana D, Ghuman S, Wilson H, Wilson J, Kim S, Lagishetty V, Jacobs J, Sinha-Hikim A, Friedman T. Unhealthy Lifestyle and Gut Dysbiosis: A Better Understanding of the Effects of Poor Diet and Nicotine on the Intestinal Microbiome. Frontiers in Endocrinology. 2021;12.
[ix] 8. Alpizar-Rodriguez D, Lesker T, Gronow A, Gilbert B, Raemy E, Lamacchia C, Gabay C, Finckh A, Strowig T. Prevotella copri in individuals at risk for rheumatoid arthritis. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. 2019;78(5):590-593.
[x] Drago L. Prevotella Copri and Microbiota in Rheumatoid Arthritis: Fully Convincing Evidence? J Clin Med. 2019 Nov 1;8(11):1837. doi: 10.3390/jcm8111837. PMID: 31683983; PMCID: PMC6912755.
[xi] Marietta E, Murray J, Luckey D, Jeraldo P, Lamba A, Patel R, Luthra H, Mangalam A, Taneja V. Suppression of Inflammatory Arthritis by Human Gut-Derived Prevotella histicola in Humanized Mice. Arthritis & Rheumatology. 2016;68(12):2878-2888.
[xii] Rolhion N, Chassaing B, Nahori M, de Bodt J, Moura A, Lecuit M, Dussurget O, Bérard M, Marzorati M, Fehlner-Peach H, Littman D, Gewirtz A, Van de Wiele T, Cossart P. Listeria monocytogenes Bacteriocin Can Target the Commensal Prevotella copri and Modulate Intestinal Infection. Cell Host & Microbe. 2019;26(5):691-701.e5.
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