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Ingestion of probiotic (Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum) alters intestinal microbial structure and behavioral expression following social defeat stress

  • 2021-02-12
  • Scientific Reports 11(1)
    • Katherine A. Partrick
    • Anna M. Rosenhauer
    • J. Auger
    • A. R. Arnold
    • Nicole M. Ronczkowski
    • Lanaya M Jackson
    • Magen N Lord
    • S. M. Abdulla
    • B. Chassaing
    • K. Huhman


Social stress exacerbates anxious and depressive behaviors in humans. Similarly, anxiety- and depressive-like behaviors are triggered by social stress in a variety of non-human animals. Here, we tested whether oral administration of the putative anxiolytic probiotic strains Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175 reduces the striking increase in anxiety-like behavior and changes in gut microbiota observed following social defeat stress in Syrian hamsters. We administered the probiotic at two different doses for 21 days, and 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing revealed a shift in microbial structure following probiotic administration at both doses, independently of stress. Probiotic administration at either dose increased anti-inflammatory cytokines IL-4, IL-5, and IL-10 compared to placebo. Surprisingly, probiotic administration at the low dose, equivalent to the one used in humans, significantly increased social avoidance and decreased social interaction. This behavioral change was associated with a reduction in microbial richness in this group. Together, these results demonstrate that probiotic administration alters gut microbial composition and may promote an anti-inflammatory profile but that these changes may not promote reductions in behavioral responses to social stress.

Research Insights

SupplementHealth OutcomeEffect TypeEffect Size
Lactobacillus helveticus R0052Increased Anti-Inflammatory Cytokine LevelsBeneficial
Lactobacillus helveticus R0052Increased Social AvoidanceHarmful
Lactobacillus helveticus R0052Reduced Microbial RichnessHarmful

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