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Hello guys, this is my first article in english, but in the next days I’m going to publish the italian version. I know that my english is not perfect, but this is not an exam! I would like to share with you information regarding this interesting topic, and as the academic journal are “all” in english and I need to pratic it, I think mixing together these two things could be a good idea. So…enjoy the article!

The term “Probiotic” nowadays is very common, and everyone of us has at least a general idea regarding the meaning of this term. Some of us have confidence also with the term “prebiotics”, but what about “post-biotics” and “parabiotic”?

Probiotics are currently defined as “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host”. Some food products are well known to be a source of probiotics, like the yoghurt, but currently we know that some beneficial effects can derive not only from alive microorganism, but also by some of its components or metabolites. However, some aspects related to the bioactivities and the health-promoting effects of paraprobiotics and postbiotics remain unclear or unknown ( Cuevas-Gonzàlez et al., 2020).

Positive result have been obtained by several studies, and in some cases the effect of inactivated form of probiotics was even better than the viable form. For this exactly reason the term “probiotic” was extended with the concept of postbiotics and paraprobiotic:

  • Postbiotics (PsB) are soluble factors (products or metabolic by-products) either secreted by live bacteria (i.e., probiotic or non-probiotic) or released after bacterial lysis that might offer positive effect to the host;
  • Paraprobiotics (PaB) are inactivated (non-viable) microbial (probiotic or non-probiotic) intact cells, which when administered in sufficient amounts confer benefits to consumers.

But…why these new concepts are so important?

PsB and PaB are very interesting for food application as they are more stable and safer, they have no impact on the food product and we don’t have to care about the condition for growing and survivance.

To obtain the PaB we need to perform treatments which allow to deactivate the cell, without disrupting the bacterial membrane and cell wall. Instead, to obtain PsB we need to disrupt bacterial membrane. To reach these results we can use several techniques, such as: heat treatment, high pressure or ultra sound.

In some cases we can have also the combination of PaB and PsB in the same preparation, basing on the necessity.

The main challenge currently is to develop a technological system to scale-up the production, in a sustainable way from an economic point of view. This aspect is very important to obtain an industrial application.

Currently on the market we have some supplements based on para-probiotic use to prevent and treat some diseases, but the aim is to exploit their activity also in the food products.

Products like yoghurt naturally contain PsB and PaB, due to the microbial activity, but it’s difficult to characterize them and to control the production. Formulation of products enriched with PsB and PaB is in progress and some previous studies show positive results.

PsB and PaB can be integrated also in feed, with the aim to obtain a modulation in the immune response and disease resistance in animals. This is an important topic, if we think at the problems correlated with the animal welfare and use of antibiotics during the breeding.

So, in conclusion, we can highlight the important role of microorganisms and their metabolites in food industry. To exploit their positive role is important to know very well their characteristics and to have an open-view thinking at all the positive application to obtain new products and new functionalities, but all the hypothesis must be validate with in vitro and in vivo tests.


P.F. Cuevas-Gonzáleza, A.M. Liceagab, J.E. Aguilar-Toaláb., (2020). Postbiotics and paraprobiotics: From concepts to applications. Food Research International ,136.

My personal notes of the “Applied Food Microbiology” course, Food Science and Technology (UniTo)



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