Dr Kate on New Lactobacillus Names

Dr Kate Stephens PhD Food and Microbial Sciences; Gut Microbiology (University of Reading), BSc Medical Microbiology

The Lactobacillus genus is having a makeover!

Changes to the Lactobacillus genus & species

A group of 15 microbiology experts have come together and reassessed the whole Lactobacillus genus with the aim to create a more accurate and organised group (Zheng J et al., 2020). Scientists have reclassified the genus into 23 new genera. There are now only 35 species belonging to Lactobacillus compared with 261 previously. The following changes have been made:

 

Old name

New name

OptiBac probiotics range

Lactobacillus acidophilus

No Change

Lactobacillus rhamnosus

Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus

Lactobacillus lactis

Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. lactis

Lactobacillus paracasei

Lacticaseibacillus paracasei subsp. paracasei

Lactobacillus casei

Lacticaseibacillus casei

Lactobacillus reuteri

Limosilactobacillus reuteri

Lactobacillus plantarum

Lactiplantibacillus plantarum subsp. plantarum

Other industry species of interest:     e.g. in other brand or in research

Lactobacillus animalis

Ligilactobacillus animalis

Lactobacillus brevis

Levilactobacillus brevis

Lactobacillus bulgaricus

Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus

Lactobacillus crispatus

No change

Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. Bulgaricus

No change

Lactobacillus fermentum

Limosilactobacillus fermentum

Lactobacillus gasseri

No change

Lactobacillus helveticus

No change

Lactobacillus hominis

No change

Lactobacillus iners

No change

Lactobacillus intestinalis

No change

Lactobacillus jensenii

No change

Lactobacillus jonsonii

No change

Lactobacillus salivarius

Ligilactobacillus salivarius

Others/foods/recognisable names:

Lactobacillus kefiri

Lentilactobacillus kefiri

Lactobacillus kimchii

Companilactobacillus kimchii

Lactobacillus kimchiensis

Companilactobacillus kimchiensis

Lactobacillus kimchicus

Secundilactobacillus kimchicus

Lactobacillus ruminis

Ligilactobacillus ruminis

Lactobacillus sakei

Latilactobacillus sakei subsp. sakei

Lactobacillus vaginalis

Limosilactobacillus vaginalis

Why has this changed?

All living things can be classified into a taxonomic tree. The system groups organisms together depending upon shared characteristics and genetic materials. In total, there are eight ‘ranks’, generally we focus most on the bottom two, ‘genus’ and ‘species’. In humans, our genus is homo and our species is sapiens. This same tree also applies in microbiology - all microbes are classified depending upon their genetic similarities. Because microbes evolve much quicker than mammals, they actually have a ninth rank known as ‘strain’. Healthcare professionals can find out more information on specific strains here: Probiotics Database.

Lactobacillus is a genus of bacteria that are commonly used in live bacterial cultures. Species belonging to them include acidophilus, casei, rhamnosus and reuteri. You may be familiar with some of these. Head over to our sister site, the Probiotics Learning Lab to read our article 'What are friendly bacteria?' to find out more information on some of these friendly bacteria and the classification.

Lactobacillus were first characterised in 1901 and was based on one bacterium: Lactobacillus delbrueckii. However, since then over 261 new species have been classified into the Lactobacillus genus- making the genus pretty diverse. In 1901, classification was based on some of the simpler characteristics such as optimum growth temperature and what the microbes were capable of producing. However, as technology excelled, scientists began to look at the microbe’s whole genome (genetic material). They found that species in the Lactobacillus genus were quite different genetically. This made some mechanistic studies and adding new species to the genus rather challenging. As such, scientists made the move on this mammoth task to investigate the whole genus.

You could think of this similar to a ‘Reptile house’ at the zoo. Imagine all the reptiles that live there, e.g. snakes, crocodiles and lizards, had been wiped of their names and instead were all just called ‘reptile’. Yet, all these animals are quite different from one another; they have different genetics and characteristics. You could apply the same principle to these changes to lactobacilli - they were classified under one big group, but actually there were big differences within that group. 

Close up of bacteria

What does it mean for you?

Day to day, these changes mean very little to us. The probiotics you take have not been changed or altered in anyway. The strain is exactly the same. All that has been done is a re-classification of the genus name, so please do not worry. Scientists knew that many of these species are used commercially and so to avoid further confusion labelled their new genus very similar to the old one e.g. Lacticaseibacillus.

The new names may take a while to come into effect universally. We expect that manufacturers may start to increasingly use the abbreviated names for their strains - eg. L. rhamnosus rather than listing out the full Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus. For now we have updated the 'Ingredients' tabs on our product pages where relevant. And otherwise, keep your eyes peeled for further updates! 

This article was last updated on 22/09/20.

References

1. Zheng J et al. (2020). A taxonomic note on the genus Lactobacillus: Description of 23 novel genera, emended description of the genus Lactobacillus Beijerinck 1901, and union of Lactobacillaceae and Leuconostocaceae. Int J Syst Evol Microbiol., doi: 10.1099/ijsem.0.004107.